Prohibitionists: Leave Us Alone!

The government has no business attacking caffeinated alcoholic drinks

Sometimes I drink Scotch and then, to wake myself up, I drink coffee. So what? Many people consume mixtures of caffeine and alcohol in drinks like rum and Coke. Again, so what?

But recently some college kids started drinking pre-mixed combos of alcohol and caffeine with names like Four Loko and Moonshot '69. Moonshot '69 is a pilsner beer with less than a coffee cup's worth of caffeine. Until recently, Four Loko contained 12 percent alcohol—about the same as wine—and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. A few students, after drinking Four Loko, landed in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Naturally, hysterical news reports followed.

A new bogeyman was born: caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

As night follows day, the Food and Drug Administration in November ordered beverage companies to lose the caffeine or shut down. The FDA called caffeine an "unsafe food additive." Phusion Products says it will now produce only noncaffeinated Four Loko. Moonshot '69 is off the market for now, which is bad news for Rhonda Kallman, who founded the company that makes it, New Century Brewing.

"There is nothing new about adults combining caffeine and alcohol," Kallman writes on her company website. "Who hasn't enjoyed a rum and Coke, Irish coffee, Kahlua or espresso martini?  ... Moonshot '69 is a beer for beer drinkers that has been enjoyed by craft-beer lovers since 2004."

Her online petition states: "We the undersigned support the right of responsible adults to choose the beer of their choice. We support Moonshot69 and the rights of craft brewers across the country to produce new and innovative offerings for the beer drinking public. ... We call on the federal government to adhere to responsible regulation of alcoholic beverages that allows adults to enjoy the beer of their choice."

Unfortunately, Kallman tries to separate her product from higher-alcohol FDA targets, but Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine argues that the FDA has no business limiting the sale of any of the alcohol/caffeine combos.

"This has been going on for as long as there have been colleges and universities," he said. "You can go back to the Middle Ages, and booze and students go together like, I guess, beer and caffeine.

Aren't some drinks more dangerous than others?

"I don't think so. But when we raised the drinking age to 21  ...  we told young people  ...  you can vote, you can enter a contract, you can go to war, you can die for your country, but if you want to drink and you're going to college, you better go off campus into a basement apartment somewhere and chug like there's no tomorrow because you don't know when you're going to be able to get drunk again."

He points out that by forbidding pre-21 adults from drinking openly around their elders, we deny them the chance to be exposed to responsible drinking.

About the ban on caffeinated alcoholic drinks, he added, "You can't minimize the overreach by the FDA."

I asked the FDA why Moonshot '69 is included on the ban list when it's not marketed to pre-21 adults and it contains less alcohol than more sugary drinks. They replied that Moonshot was referred to the agency by state attorneys general concerned about alcohol and caffeine. The FDA asked New Century Brewing for data indicating the legal standard for safety had been met, but no data was provided.

Kallman points out that the FDA "didn't fully research it either. So they put the onus on the small entrepreneur to have a scientist. But at the end of the day, it's 5 percent alcohol by volume and less than a half a cup of coffee of natural caffeine. Where will they stop?"

Never. Government never stops.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Nanny||

    The combination of alcohol and caffeine is lethal! Time and time again children have proven able to effectively acquire, consume, and subsequently die from ingestion of these products. There is no reason a product like this should be legal. Children aren't responsible enough to consume these beverages.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    That's why the drinking age is 21. However, that doesn't stop some determined young morons. (Read +50% of teenagers.)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't know. The news media tell me that the college toddlers are being felled left and right by these insipid potent potables. Someone should do something.

  • Pip||

    More condums!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You've inadvertently stumbled ass-backwards into almost finding the solution. We now know that heavy drinking is caused by monogamy, so obviously to get the college children to stop drinking, the State needs to force them into copious amounts of sexual intercoursing.

  • cynical||

    No, it needs to force them into multiple legal marriages. My recommendation: vote Romney.

  • Old Mexican||

    "Kallman points out that the FDA 'didn't fully research it either. So they put the onus on the small entrepreneur to have a scientist." [...]

    That's the whole point of having a federal regulatory department: To protect the interests of the bigger manufacturers, those that can afford the extra expense.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    But we like new companies. They force bigger companies to make better products via competition.

    We don't need public money going to the FDA. If a company wants and "FDA Approved" symbol on their product, they can pay the cost themselves. Everyone who doesn't can market their product to whomever wants it, thank you very much.

  • Old Mexican||

    "But when we raised the drinking age to 21 ... we told young people ... you can vote, you can enter a contract, you can go to war, you can die for your country, but if you want to drink and you're going to college, you better go off campus into a basement apartment somewhere and chug like there's no tomorrow because you don't know when you're going to be able to get drunk again."

    People, people, people... follow the money. To whom goes the benefits of setting the drinking age to 21? If younger adults BINGE because of their version of Prohibition, who reaps the benefits?

    Answer: Big Alcohol does. It is NOT about 'protecting the children', it never was and it never will be.

  • cynical||

    Isn't the national drinking age unconstitutional? People hit their majority (federally) at 18, and are otherwise legally equal past that age. It seems like it would violate the equal protection clause.

    I mean, is it more acceptable than laws banning women from drinking or putting heavier restrictions on them? They have less tolerance for alcohol (usually), but that doesn't legitimize discrimination.

  • ||

    i wasn't aware there was a national drinking age , or at least a de jure one. there is a de facto one. that's because, amongst other things, the feds have threatened to withold federal money for highways etc. if the state didn't change to 21, etc.

    my understanding is the only national drinking age BY law, is in places like military bases, etc. which are under federal jurisdiction obviously

    of course i could be wrong.

    and the four loko ban is retarded

  • mark||

    Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the drinking age shenanigans, with O'Connor and Brennan dissenting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Dakota_v._Dole

  • ||

    that's consistent with what I said. Note that I made the distinction that they can withold funds (thus creating a de facto national drinking age) as I said, but not that it is actually illegal under federal law.

    Iow, that's a good support for my point. There is no de jure federal drinking age. They can create a de facto one by witholding funds to those that would choose to obey. So, it has created that situation without actually criminalizing drinking under 21.

    And for the record, I'm agin it!

  • Jim||

    Is this really so unreasonable? According to doctors, if you consume something like fourloko you just may find yourself dead. There was a woman who had a drink of fourloko then crashed a car. None of these companies have done any research to see that caffeine is a safe and effective food additive to put in alcohol. Also, these drinks are marketed to children in colleges to get drunk on, not for responsible adults like cabernet is.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Jim,

    Is this really so unreasonable?

    What would it be unreasonable?

    According to doctors [who?], if you consume something like fourloko you just may find yourself dead.

    You mean by chance? By happenstance? Or is the drink poisonous?

    There was a woman who had a drink of fourloko then crashed a car.

    This is stupid, it sounds like you're quoting a chain letter.

  • Brendan Perez||

    So someone drank the equivalent of four beers, drove a car and crashed? I'm stunned that could happen. It must have been the caffeine in the beverage that did it.

    http://www.snpp.com/episodes/1F20.html
    Homer: Oh, and how is "education" supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember when I took that home wine-
    making course and I forgot how to drive?
    Marge: That's because you were drunk!
    Homer: And how.

  • Brendan Perez||

    Dammit, I replied to the wrong post. I meant to reply to Jim.

  • Old Mexican||

    No worries, I knew that ;)

  • Zeke||

    The reason to ban 4loko is that it tastes awful.

  • ||

    I'll second that! The stuff is absolute trash. My dad used to make a "tea" from cigarette butts, then spray this potion on some of his garden plants: a pretty effective pesticide. Four Loco would likely do the same, right out of the can.

  • Moi||

    I second that. Someone had one I tried the other day PHEWWWWWW who can drink that crap! I was nauseated from the sickeningly sweet taste. I wouldn't drink this shit if I was already drunk much less looking to get drunk.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    So...you want to ban something because it isn't tasteful? Let's get to work on tiedie!!!

    Seriously, that is no excuse. If it tastes so bad, then don't drink it. Don't prevent someone who likes it from doing so.

  • Lt. Vincent Hanna||

    You can get killed walkin' your doggie!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    You can die falling out of bed. Let's go pass a law requiring that every bed have safety bars covered in two inches of foam rubber.

  • fuzzysheep||

    "... children in colleges ... responsible adults ..."

    Really?

  • ||

    Haven't you heard that we are all children until we are 26? Then we have to find our own health insurance and get spanked with an IRS penalty if we don't. Oh--maybe that means we are children for ever. Thanks goodness the FDA and Kathy Sebilius are there to take care of us.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Actually, our bodies finish maturing at 26. However, I don't think that the IRS should penalize us for not getting insurance.

    It's called a nanny state for a reason.

  • ||

    I think I have to change my handle to something less obtuse. This other Jim gives me a bad name.

  • ||

    i agree. the ban is ridiculous. 4 loko is a very strong alcohol drink (very high alcohol by volume) with, frankly, not that much caffeine at all. 2 red bulls and vodka have more caffeine than a 4 loko.

    bfd.

    the ban was stupid, kneejerk, do it for the children legislation. college kids got fucked up and blamed 4 loko of course.

    because we all know college kids never got drunk, passed out, and even had to go the hospital or morgue before 4 loko came along

  • Ponce||

    the ban was stupid, kneejerk, do it for the children legislation.

    Possibly the worst thing about the ban is that it's not "legislation" at all. I think it's stupid for people to want to control what other people do, but if the majority of people want to ban alcohol + caffeine, our democratic process makes that possible, and I guess I'd be fine(r) with that. But no democratic process was followed here. The FDA just made a declaration. It took a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol back in the 20's, but this ban didn't come about as a result of any kind of voting process whatsoever.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I don't think anyone has the right to ban anyone else from consuming alcohol, unless doing so renders them a danger to others (hence the DUI).

  • ||

    Caffeine and alcohol-

    Ever had a Jagerbomb? Half Jagermeister and half Red Bull. I don't really like either but they taste good together.

    People have been putting alcohol in their coffee for a long time. My sis-in-law said, "Well, they sell those in grocery stores and the clerks think they're energy drinks so they've been selling them to minors." Then that's the grocery store's fault, right?

  • Old Mexican||

    The government has no business attacking caffeinated alcoholic drinks

    It has no business doing anything, for starters. Not on my dime.

  • ||

    How about "EVERY Public Official: Leave Us Alone?"

  • ||

    u mean no business doing anything u dont approve of. sorta like teapartiers denouncing our marxist govt while holding signs to "keep ur hands off my medicare". another rube...

  • Neu Mejican||

    They better keep their hands off of my pipeline porter...

    http://www.konabrewingco.com/beers/pipeline-porter

    Yep, this is all silliness.

    Of course, as per usual, I am not sure Stossel's comparisons are on target. Comparing this to Irish coffee or rum and coke is a pretty serious false equivalency. E.G., drinking, say 3 cans of the old 4loko (max, 23 ounce cans) would have been the same as drinking three six packs of beer and 15 cups of coffee. Do that in a beer bong all at once and you are not gonna feel too good.

  • ||

    So? Dump three six-packs and 15 cups of coffee into a beer bong will have the same or worse effects.

    If we banned everything someone could do something stupid with, what would be left?

  • ||

    well not with you for sure...

  • Rhywun||

    Is this thing on...?

  • Neu Mejican||

    I started my comment with saying these bans were stupid.

    That point can be made without the false equivalency.

  • ||

    Stossel is an incredibly lazy writer and researcher. I can't even use the term "journalist."

    I agree with any anti-nanny screed, but that doesn't mean you get a free pass to use faulty logic, use straw men, fudge statistics, etc.

    Stossel sucks. Just because he agrees with me on certain issues (or gets paid to say he does) doesn't mean he still doesn't suck.

    Compare any of his articles with any articles by the senior contributors at Reason. Reading Stossel is like reading a high school essay.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: JCalton,

    I agree with any anti-nanny screed, but that doesn't mean you get a free pass to use faulty logic, use straw men, fudge statistics, etc.

    F'r instance.... ????

  • ||

    The "F'r instance" is in the original comment that I'm replying to. That's what this particular thread of comments is in regards to.
    "Comparing this to Irish coffee or rum and coke is a pretty serious false equivalency."

    In the past, I have given a hefty dose of my own examples from other Stossel articles (including what amounts to plagiarism or fabrication), but I get shouted down for not toeing the party line and liking everyone or anything that claims to be based in libertarian thought, even when those claims should be subject to the same scrutiny we give anything.

    It's just like Team Red and Team Blue sometimes: we are expected to be highly critical of any information coming from the other teams, but give a free pass to anything produced by ours.

  • ||

    *shrug* Not every writer is for everyone.
    I know what you mean, except didn't you mean "tow the lion"? I was with you up until that point!

  • ||

    The FDA is making the case that caffeine and alcohol mixed together is somehow uniquely dangerous through some sort of synergy that they fail to identify. Noting that they are not going after this supposedly dangerous cocktail in other forms is a valid argument, not withstanding the dosages involved. Moonshot is about the same alcohol/caffeine dose of an Irish coffee, but it was banned as well.

    Their reasons for banning 4loko were spurious, verging on bald-faced lies. And to justify it, they roped in a lot of products to make it look like they weren't playing favorites based on class perceptions. Can the average adult consume a single can of 4Loko without dying? If so, then the FDA needs to shut the fuck up.

  • ||

    The Four Loko ban was ridiculous, but exactly what Americans expect the FDA to do. It's a sad, sad country.

  • ||

    the FDA is , of course, wrong. alcohol is a depressant. caffeine is a stimulant. it's been known for decades that if you give a drunk coffee, you get a wide awake drunk, and one who is less aware of how intoxicated he is. great. that doesn't justify the ban.

    red bull and vodka is the exact same fucking thing.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    So you're going to drink 69 ounces of malt beverage at once? I'm pretty sure if you chug a growler of beer you won't feel too good right after either.

    Heck, even a half gallon of water in one shot would be uncomfortable.

  • Barney||

    Heck, even a half gallon of water in one shot would be uncomfortable.

    That's why I take it by enema.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Yeah, that was meant to reference chugging the can, not all three in one shot.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    Of course, as per usual, I am not sure Stossel's comparisons are on target.

    As per usual, you bring up things that do no even begin to justify in any way the imposition from above.

  • ||

    I was waiting to see how long it would take Irish Coffee to get dragged into this (again).

  • pmains||

    Never. Government never stops.

    I think this sums everything up nicely. Was the rest of the article really necessary?

  • Juvenile Lurker||

    The FDA called caffeine an "unsafe food additive."

    Q: If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

    A: Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.

    (Props to Abraham Lincoln.)

  • Other Mainer||

    (From The Weekly Standard [Raleigh, North Carolina], 29 October 1862.)

    OLD ABE GETS OFF ANOTHER JOKE. -- A couple of Abolitionists having called upon Old Abe to persuade him to issue his Emancipation Proclamation -- that is, before he issued it -- he got off the following good thing and knock down argument against his own act:

    "You remember the slave who asked his master -- if I should call a sheep's tail a leg, how many legs would it have? 'Five.' 'No, only four, for my calling the tail a leg would not make it so.' Now, gentlemen, if I say to the slaves, 'you are free,' they will be no more free than at present."

  • Beverage Maker||

    Don't worry. Just wait until my company starts producing suppository refreshments. Carbonation never felt so great! And you thought those Starbucks enemas were so good!

    You haven't seen nuthin' yet!

  • Anomalous||

    Why don't you stick that where the sun don't shine?

  • Beverage Maker||

    I already have. We have also tested them on lab monkeys and they enjoy it quite a lot. Perhaps you'd like to participate in a taste test?

  • Slowpoke||

    Uhhhh... you did read the part where it said "suppository", right? 'Cause, you know, that's what they're for.

  • Typical American||

    I'm so glad the FDA protects us. If it wasn't for them, we'd still have cocaine in our Coca-colas! Children would rape everybody, including themselves, and drug abuse would run rampant!

    Now where did I put my Viox? Oh, wait...

  • Wind Rider||

    I'm almost of an opinion that this was a feel good test case by the statist authoritarians, to see if/prove they could use the same-same formula of whipping a frenzy with a couple of dubious examples, singling out an obscure item/product/group of people lacking broad popular support or public awareness, then taking what would otherwise be considered shocking and draconian actions for much the same reason that a dog licks itself. Here's hoping the lot of them contract improperly diagnosed leprosy to the point they lose several body parts and become horrendously disfigured as well as being shunned by society in general, which is actually better than such assholes deserve.

  • redvblue||

    Well no shit it's a dangerous combo. Ya know what else is a dangerous combo: alcohol and more alcohol! But you don't see to many people pushing for prohibition anymore. The government has now assumed the role of protecting the ignorant.

  • redvblue||

    And yes, I know this isn't the first instance where they have assumed this role.

  • ||

    Of Course!

    Protect the ignorant so people like me who actually take responsibility for myself and have a sense of accountability can suffer the ingnomity of rule by ignorant tyrants!

  • some guy||

    Many states prevent you from purchasing "more alcohol" once you have already consumed "alcohol". So they already beat you to that dangerous combo as well. The number of actions that are illegal in this country is truly staggering.

  • Prohibition Kills||

    More justification for my relentless hatred of bureaucrats.

  • ||

    Nullification is the rightful remedy:

    http://confederateunderground......s-for.html

  • ||

    How the fuck does jury nullification have anything to do with this?

  • ||

    I agree Hank. Awesome article and thamks for sharing. As always John hits it right on the head...you cannot and should not legislate morality. Here is another article on states rights by Mike Shaner...the "nullification" author from above. I wish reason or big gov. or someone would hire this guy. I love his writing and his pov but it's hard finding his blog all the time.
    http://oakparkrepublic.blogspot.com/

  • Tony||

    Agreed, Stossel. It seems that the realities of this issue are often counterintuitive. Banning stuff people want to consume doesn't seem to accomplish anything. We are probably the country with the most cultural stress--and some of the most onerous laws--about diet, drink, and drugs, yet we are the fattest and least healthy people in the world.

    So for once we agree: we should become more like the French.

  • ||

    That's the funny thing: when people complain "if the government gets any more socialist, I'm going to move."
    To where?
    To a socialist country? Basically any country with a standard of living anywhere vaguely close to the U.S.'s is socialist, too. Maybe a little less, probably a lot more. If you're a business owner, you can probably do better in terms of taxes, but not in terms of the socialism.

    It would be sweet if the Free State Project actually worked; even better, if someone did the same thing in a country somewhere and it worked there.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: JCalton,

    To where?

    There's Costa Rica. Uruguay. New Zealand.

  • ||

    COSTA RICA is socialist. Period.
    NEW ZEALAND is a nanny/welfare state. Arguably worse than the U.S. (c.f., Australia)
    URUGUAY has socialized medicine and a socialist president.

    Now I know never to take you seriously ever again.

    P.S. You made my point exactly. Thank you.

  • André||

    Switzerland is not a bad option either if you don't already speak Spanish and speak French/German/Italian, but you can get by pretty well on English in the cities.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    So for once we agree: we should become more like the French.

    One can always imitate or copy the good things from others. One thing I would not copy from the French is their penchant for covering with deodorant the fact that they barely bathe, for instance...

  • ||

    "the fact that they barely bathe"

    /facepalm
    OMFG.

    Why don't you buy a boatload of jeans at retail and fly to Paris to sell them and become a millionaire? Way to live in the 1970's.

    Actually the French have always bathed (as much as any European country, including England)--so you're totally wrong about that--but they didn't have deodorant for awhile there. I'll be nice and assume your information is only 4-5 decades old (deodorant), rather than dating back to the period of Anglo-Norman wars, which is probably the origin of the bathing myth.

    More recently bathing was far more rare in New York because there was no fresh water for the masses on Manhattan, having been assigned via govt contract in sweetheart deals to third-party monopolies.

    So if you are going to put forth ancient bathing myths, at least do it for Americans: that information is far more recent, and historically accurate.

    That is a "fact."
    Perhaps you should re-evaluate your use of that noun.

  • ||

    That's the funny thing: when people complain "if the government gets any more socialist, I'm going to move."
    To where?

    May I suggest Panama? Delightful country: its beautiful and cheap. And can't afford a massive bureacracy to hound your every step.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: R C Dean,

    And can't afford a massive bureacracy to hound your every step.

    Good point - the power of the state to limit people's liberty is proportional to its income.

  • redvblue||

    The U.S. can't afford it either, but here we are...

  • ||

    it wouldn't surprise me if the ban helps the company that makes 4 loko. if they are smart they will make another drink that passes muster with the FDA, and advertise prominently "from the people that brought you 4 loko"

    fwiw, i never had any desire to try 4 loko, but went out and bought some when the ban was proposed, as a form of protest. it's perfectly legal to possess and consume post-ban, just illegal to market, sell, etc.

  • Drew Carey||

    Buzz Beer, anyone?

  • Patriot Mike||

    I've had some bad episodes when mixing alcohol and weed. Don't smoke the chronic after getting drunk. Everything spins, and up comes lunch. BTW, I didn't need the FDA to convince me to stop doing this.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Mike, yet another reminder that you cannot use the word "patriot" given your anti-smoking/anti-property rights stance.

  • ||

    I blame Big Beer. Big Beer only cares about making obscene profits, not people. Err, isn't that what we're supposed to say?

  • ||

    I agree. But then I don't want universal health care. Either the governement pays for everyone's healthcare and then regulates food/drugs or leave us alone entirely. People don't have enough accountability to take care of themselves and I am tired of paying for people who don't give a crap about themselves.

  • Hillary||

    Banning alcoholic beverages like Four Loko just makes them more desirable. People will drive across state lines to buy it making this new law pointless.

  • sophie||

    holeSale Cartier glasses eyeglasses frames at a low price.you will be

  • comwenj||

  • granite countertop||

    Every day we face with countertop,you can have a high quality of life with granite countertop of yalitongstone,but we will also very pleased if you can see Huaxingstone's granite countertop.

  • nike running shoes||

    is good

  • nike air max||

    is good

  • tory burch||

    Sometimes drink wine is beneficial to body health, but excessive drinking is will cause harm to the body, sometimes may be fatal.

  • hulian||

    good

  • alipay||

    ThAnK

  • wubai||

    ThAnK

  • dfeifjei||

    Get government replica uggs out of education and kids will get educated or fake uggs for sale not, as their parents desire. More of them will actually become educated without government than do now with it.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement