Point: Hands Off Our Loko
The opposition to Four Loko is unfounded. There are still many ways to consume alcohol and caffeine at the same time. A very popular option is mixing Redbull with vodka. In fact, the founder of Four Loko said he got the idea for the drink when he saw how popular Redbull and vodka was among college students. Additionally, many Americans mix drinks like Bailey’s Irish Cream with coffee every day. Made liberally, these concoctions have a higheralcohol content than Four Loko, and yet there is no public outcry over these other cocktails.
The main argument against Four Loko is that it is simply not wise to mix an upper, caffeine, with a downer, alcohol. So if the FDA is going to ban drinkslike Four Loko and Joose they should also target other companies and establishments who profit off of mixing caffeine with alcohol. If they do not, it will be an arbitrary enforcement of the law.
While it is true that a number of blackouts have been attributed to the consumption of Four Loko, it is also true that far more blackouts occur from consuming alcoholic beverages that aren’t Four Loko. When 21-year-old Courtney Spurry died after drinking two cans of Four Loko and choosing to drive a car, no one mentioned the roughly 40,000 deaths that occur every year from drunk driving. Her parents blamed Four Loko and not her poor decision to get behind the wheel of a car while she was impaired. Hers is a tragic story, but the fact is that most drunk drivers were not drinking Four Loko when they crashed their cars. Banning one single beverage isn’t going to solve the problem.
But wait, it contains caffeine! Doesn’t that mean that you are too hyper to realize that you’re drunk? Actually, not really. Before Spurry entered her vehicle, it was reported that her friends said that she was slurring her words and mixing up their names. Her friends said they tried to take her keys away but were unsuccessful. She was in- formed that she was very intoxicated and still made the decision to drive. It’s obvious that people who drink Four Loko may become very impaired, but the majority of responsible alcohol drinkers should not be punished for the foolish actions of a few.
Some parental groups have expressed concerns that the colorful packaging of Four Loko makes it especially appealing to younger children. To these parents we say, if you are worried about your children getting their hands on Four Loko then you should probably watch them more. It is no more likely they could get their hands on Four Loko than beer because delis are supposed to I.D. everyone who purchases alcohol. It is probably easier for your children to find a weed dealer and buy drugs because weed dealers don’t ask for your identification—they just deal.
Just like marijuana prohibition has failed to stop Americans from smoking, the prohibition against beverages that contain alcohol and caffeine will fail from keeping Americans from consuming alcohol and caffeine at the same time. Simply banning these types of drinks won’t stop people form drinking them, and may actually promote them by boosting their notoriety.
Counterpoint: You Could Die!
The idea that the government can tell us what we can’t drink, or what mixtures we can’t make with legal ingredients, is indeed a manipulative gesture that seems to overstep a boundary. But Four Loko is one of the few exceptions where New York State intervened on behalf of what it felt was the good of the people when it “banned” the drink, to which an easy response is that they have no right to do so. But when you explore the true intention of Four Loko through the act of pure observance, you could argue that the banning of the caffeinated and alcoholic beverage is something good for the public, despite whether the college kids or high school binge drinkers know it yet.
Four Loko has the same alcohol-per-ounce equivalent of 4.7 12 oz. cans of beer, given that the cans of beer are five percent alcohol per volume. Combine that with the oft-repeated speculation that one can contains up to three cups of coffee and you have your- self a dangerous 23.5 oz. drink. Are their more dangerous mixtures out there? Of course. Are they available even to younger kids in high school? Yes. But none are so pervasively employed to make heavy drinking so easy, accessible and accepted. It’s both the notion behind Four Loko and the blaring intention you give off whenever you decide to drink one, which makes it such an unwanted product.
Someone looking to reach the same level of inebriation could simply buy cheap liquor and drink an equivalent amount of alcohol, but therein lies the idea behind Four Loko’s appeal. It’s a roughly $4 beverage that can (or used to) be found at any gas station, and it let’s you bypass the strenuous process of drinking 50-plus ounces of beer or struggling through shot after shot of the equivalent of rubbing alcohol out of a plastic bottle.
It is essentially a binge drinker’s dream concoction, and no avid Four Loko fan would tell you otherwise. Everything is mixed all into one easy to drink mixture, and even if it does taste horrendous, it has enough fruity flavor and the caffeine kick to keep you going. New York State may claim that the caffeine is misleading and urges youths, or those unaware of the effects, to keep drinking beyond their limit. But that’s common sense and anyone stupid enough to not understand that does not deserve the right to responsibly drink. The real problem of Four Loko is the colorful- ness of its can, the fruitiness of its taste and the generally accepted notion that for less than seven or eight bucks, you can drink to the point of blacking out and nobody will think twice. Because, well, that’s Four Loko, right?