Instigating a National Drinking Contest: The FDA’s Ban of Four Loko Misses the Bigger Picture

By Ben Mason

Elm Alumni Colmunist

Here we go again, America: the FDA is sticking its nose into places where it doesn’t belong. I’m speaking of course, of the recent ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages (minus the weaker ones like Sparks, which are apparently okay to binge on). Even the Trade Commission laid the hammer down on companies like Phusion Projects (Four Loko) and United Brands Company Inc. (Joose and Max), saying that if any shipments of alcoholic energy drinks were dispatched after December 13th they would be confiscated by the U.S. Marshals.

Many of you, dear readers, may be thinking by now, “Wait, what? Why?” It’s perfectly fine to be a little confused–I was too after following the story in the press. Because Four Loko caused one death this year, everyone is up in arms. Mixing energy drinks and alcohol essentially masks the worst of the effects of being intoxicated, and turns the user into a kind of “walking black out.”

My own opinion on this is that “walking black outs” are safer than freshman pledges who lock themselves into bathrooms whilst projectile vomiting Pink Panty Droppers, mostly because suggesting to a person drunk on Four Loko (or a similar product) that s/he needs to get to a hospital will set them off on a full sprint for medical attention. Digressions aside, drinking alcohol should never be taken lightly. I disagree with the FDA ruling on alcoholic energy drinks because the ingredients found in them can easily be purchased separately and just mixed together at a convenient time.

States began to ban the drinks on their own because just one can of Four Loko (or some equivalents) will put a person over the limit for public BAC and way over the limit to legally drink and drive. At the same time however, one bottle of Everglo (a vodka/tequila/ginseng mixed drink made popular by the occupants of Saint Mary’s C last year) will do exactly the same if not more damage to one’s ability to operate vehicles. The facts, as I see them, are as follows: everyone wants to get drunk (life sucks, we just won a lacrosse game, I want to be in a fraternity, my date tonight looks like his mom dressed him etc.), mostly everyone is already getting drunk, and alcoholic energy drinks make it easier to become drunk. Problem America?

Apparently the FDA just wants to challenge the drinkers of our great nation to a drinking contest. If they really wanted to stop alcohol abuse, they’d find a way to make people happier without alcohol–something along the lines of legalizing marijuana, reducing all thesis requirements by 10 pages, putting our citizens back to work, etc.

As a side note, can anyone tell me how many deaths cigarettes cause each year? It’s like, a ton, bro. But cigarettes are still sold by the boat load, brought in on little cigarette boats filled to the brim with cancer sticks.

Why the discrepancy?

Probably because Big Tobacco, although hobbled by battles in the court system, is still alive and has money to spend on lobbyists, something that companies like Phusion Projects lack. Maybe if we slap a few “Drink this and I swear it will kill you when you’re 70” labels on cans of Four Loko we can all go back to blacking out on Monday nights in peace. Just so long as the Four Loko products are made in the U.S., that is. The FDA is also currently pushing for a ban on electric cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes, or “What the hell is that guy smoking?”), after co-authoring a bill with the Phillip Morris tobacco company.

Readers, I wish I was making this stuff up. E-cigarettes are hands down a safer way to get your nicotine, and whether or not they actually help people to quit puffing the bad stuff aside, it looks as if the tobacco pushers are becoming nervous. Maybe if we had beaten China in the electric smoking race of 2004 it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Maybe if Four Loko didn’t have caffeine in it (not to mention a $1.50 price tag) college kids wouldn’t be getting drunk. Then again, Irish coffees weren’t invented for no reason.

My challenge to you then, is this: if you really want to have your malt liquor and your caffeine too: start getting ridiculously out-of-control-drunk on substances that were found to be “safe enough” by the FDA. Seagram’s wine coolers may be more expensive than Four Loko, but after 30 of them I can guarantee you’ll have forgotten all about that lab report due next Monday.

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