Updated Tuesday morning with additional links and info about research
The Paterson administration announced over the weekend that Phusion Products, the company that makes the caffeinated malt liquor drink Four Loko, had voluntarily agreed to stop shipping the beverage to New York State by this Friday. The administration also announced the state's largest beer distributors had voluntarily agreed to stop selling malt beverages that contain caffeine and other stimulants.
Said David Paterson in the press release:
"New Yorkers deserve to know that the beverages they buy are safe for consumption. The voluntary agreement reached this weekend between beverage distributors and the State Liquor Authority is an important first step toward permanently removing alcoholic energy drinks from the marketplace. I'll continue to work with the beverage industry to protect the safety of all New Yorkers.
Despite some good tabloid-y lines -- "liquid cocaine" and "badness in a can" -- there doesn't actually appear to be any research showing that the caffeine/alcohol mix in these beverages is inherently unsafe, at least not yet (the FDA is currently reviewing the products -- there are suspicions ingesting alcohol and caffeine at the same time is more potent than consuming the substances separately). As devtob and others pointed out in comments here on AOA last week, the tales of drunkenness and other mishaps associated with Four Loko probably come from the fact that the beverage is 12 percent alcohol by volume. Considering a single can is 24 ounces, that's enough alcohol to get most people relatively well smashed. (If you can actually get past the taste.)
This ban also doesn't prevent people from simply mixing alcohol with energy drinks (the classic example: Red Bull and vodka) -- something many college students already do. And, yep, that will get you drunk.
The biggest culprit in all this is probably the binge drinking culture that's prominent on so many college campuses. If it's not Four Loko, it'll be something else -- unless the culture changes.
This new announcement follows Chuck Schumer's call last week for the state liquor authority to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Michigan banned caffeinated alcoholic beverages earlier this month, and Washington did the same this week (apparently setting off a rush on remaining supplies of Four Loko). And Oklahoma has a ban set to start next month.
photo: Flickr user jameskm03
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