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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Follow-up: Four Loko Banned in Washington

Last week, I posted a piece about the 12% ABV caffeinated drink Four Loko, wondering why it isn't illegal. Things have evolved in that short time. Since Washington DC has been slow to act on the question of whether booze-and-caffeine drinks are safe, states have just been making the call themselves:
Almost a year ago the Food and Drug Administration started nosing around the companies that combine alcohol and caffeine into drinks like Four Loko.... The regulator still hasn't made a decision about whether it's OK for the drink makers to mix loads of alcohol and caffeine in a single can.

So, a growing number of states are taking action on their own. Washington, where nine college students were hospitalized recently after becoming intoxicated, is the latest state to ban caffeine-boosted alcohol drinks. Michigan and Oklahoma also have done so.
Oddly enough, the OLCC doesn't have the authority to regulate this category of alcohol, so Oregon is unlikely to ban Four Loko anytime soon:

Christie Scott with the OLCC said earlier that the agency can’t ban those drinks because they aren’t funneled through the OLCC the way distilled spirits are.

Christie Scott: "This product on the other hand is a malt beverage, which doesn’t come through the OLCC warehouse. And we don’t have any regulatory authority to prevent that from coming into Oregon."

I expect other states to follow suit.


  1. Our Attorney General had asked the FDA to probe further, something I supported. Then our Govenor asked the liquor board to just ban the substance out of a knee-jerk reaction. I suppose with the way the recent election went, the liquor board felt quite empowered and just went ahead and banned these drinks.

    An outright ban is misguided and obviously a pander to voters in Washington, something to distract them from the real problems (budget) the state is currently facing. I still support restrictions on these beverages, but a ban? Ugh.

    Aparently, I do live in South Park.

  2. It's always easier to identify a problem than a remedy. Although I think these things are probably dangerous and shouldn't be legal, it would be nice if the &$#%! FDA would put out some information first. In the US, we tend to have a hair trigger against mind-altering substances we deem--rightly or, very often, wrongly--unsafe.

    All the same, states banning Four Loko will probably get the FDA off its arse.

  3. I'm disappointed by this knee-jerk move. First of all, the college students who gave themselves alcohol poisoning (gee, that's never happened before) had reportedly consumed beer and hard liquor in addition to Four Loko that night-- so to blame it all on one beverage seems lazy. Secondly, how is Four Loko really worse than anything else on the market? Should we make it illegal to purchase both a cup of coffee and a bottle of vodka?

    When a bunch of college kids abuse alcohol and get sent to the hospital, parents and school administrators want answers. Of course they gravitated towards the one thing they were unfamiliar with-- sweet, caffeinated malt beverages. "Gosh, they didn't have those back in my day," say the old folks. Suddenly it's important to ban this "dangerous substance". Probably easier than teach everyone a lesson about consuming adult beverages in a responsible fashion.

    Part of me says people are scared of Four Loko because it's associated with "low class" drinkers like bums and (gasp) minorities. Nobody respectable will defend it. And I'm sad that Beervana is playing into all that hype rather than take an objective stance. If the politicians targeted a nice, strong barleywine, or a coffee stout, I get the feeling that the tone would be much different.

  4. In Washington,malt beverages like Four Loco don't pass through the WSLCB warehouse. They are distributed by beer distributors like Odom.

  5. @Anonymous: hear, hear! Testify, brother (or sister)!

  6. Alcohol with caffeine can be pretty awesome, I just prefer mine as a healthy dose of Irish cream in my coffee, not an overly boozy, cheap drink that tastes like kool-aid and is marketed to underage kids who ARE DEFINITELY going to over indulge.

    I guess what I'm saying is I'm cool with some things getting banned, when they are truly dangerous and add nothing of value to society. Obviously the same can't be said of many psychotropic drugs because without them, we wouldn't have awesome music like Jimi Hendrix, The Butthole Surfers, and The Beatles.

  7. Agree with that one! The effort to ban this kinds of drinks seems to be futile. Other than that it may poke the interest of youth to explore vigorously.

  8. Another New York Times article; this one on bars specializing in coffee and alcohol drinks. Don't worry, there is the gratuitous Four Loko reference buried in it:

  9. Can we please disband the OLCC? They have their own warehouse? What a waste of money.

  10. I'm gonna get it while I still can!
    Check out this PSA I found...

  11. Rick nails it.

  12. I agree that the Four Loko should be banned, those types of drinks aren't safe, it influence badly heart and kidney function, but unfortunately it's almost impossible to fight with million dollar corporation, you'll never win.