Look What Nine Drunken Idiots Can Accomplish!

Yesterday, spurred by nine Central Washington University students who got sick after drinking too much Four Loko, the Washington State Liquor Control Board voted to impose an emergency ban on "alcoholic energy drinks." Gov. Christine Gregoire, who joined Attorney General Rob McKenna in recommending the ban, explains her reasoning (PDF):

I was particularly concerned that these drinks tend to target young people. Reports of inexperienced or underage drinkers consuming them in reckless amounts have given us cause for concern....

Quite simply, these drinks are trouble. They contain up to 12 percent alcohol—more than twice the amount found in most beer. Added to that are large amounts of caffeine, which can mask the effects of alcohol. By taking these drinks off the shelves we are saying "no" to irresponsible drinking and taking steps to prevent incidents like the one that made these college students so ill.

Retailers have a week to clear the banned products from their shelves. The emergency ban lasts for 120 days, giving the liquor control board time to make it permanent. And after that, no college student in Washington state will ever drink irresponsibly again.

Unlike Michigan's ban on "alcohol energy drinks," which covers a list of specific products, the Washington ban applies to all beverages that "combine beer, strong beer, or malt liquor with caffeine, guarana, taurine, or other similar substances." On its face, it transforms malt beverages not ordinarily identified as "alcoholic energy drinks," such as coffee-infused stouts (or IPAs brewed with yerba maté), into contraband. At the same time, the definition excludes caffeinated liquor such as Pink vodka (the ban also does not affect caffeinated cocktails such as Red Bull and vodka or rum and Coke).

This week Oklahoma's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission likewise announced a "moratorium" on "Alcohol Energy Drinks including Four Loko," which can no longer be imported into the state as of December 3 but can be sold for as long as inventories last after that. Although some news reports imply that Utah recently imposed a similar ban, the Deseret News says the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control never approved distribution of Four Loko or similar products. "While lawmakers, governors and attorneys general in several states are wringing their hands over what to do about new energy drinks that combine high levels of alcohol and caffeine," the paper brags, "the issue is nonexistent in Utah." With help from a few more drunken idiots, maybe the rest of the country can finally catch up with Utah.

But first let's get the story straight. ABC News says Four Loko is "cocaine in a can," while the Des Moines Register says it's "a blackout in a can." While both phrases are nicely hyperbolic (inasmuch as a can of Four Loko has less alcohol than a bottle of wine and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee), they seem inconsistent. Is it the staying up or the passing out that's the problem? The beauty of the official narrative, as told by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, is that we don't have to choose! The caffeine keeps you up long enough to ingest too much alcohol (which no one ever did before these products were introduced), at which point you pass out and die:

Research suggests that the combination of caffeine and alcohol create a so-called "wide-awake drunk" and may impair a person's ability to judge his or her level of intoxication....

Combining stimulants such as caffeine and depressants such as alcohol can place undue strain on the heart and central nervous system, dehydrate the body and hinder the body's ability to metabolize alcohol. The combination can also cause a depressed respiratory system and vomiting during sleep when the stimulants wear off.

Sharon Foster, who chairs the board, explains that it is "acting now to ensure these products do not contribute to a tragedy before the Food and Drug Administration or Legislature can act."

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  • ||

    Look What Nine Drunken Idiots Can Accomplish!

    I thought this would be another thread about the SCOTUS.

  • ||

    +1

  • cynical||

    Likewise.

  • lambdalion||

    Yeah, I actually clicked just to add a comment to the effect that I thought that headline was about something else until I remembered that Breyer was a teetotaler.

  • ||

    Reports of inexperienced or underage drinkers consuming them in reckless amounts have given us cause for concern....

    I have a solution for this problem of "underage" drinking.

  • Pip||

    "Reports of inexperienced or underage drinkers"

    You know there's really only one way to gain experience...

  • Polynikes||

    How about this money quote from the article:

    Some students admitted drinking vodka, rum and beer with Four Loko, which is made by Phusion Projects Inc., of Chicago.

  • ||

    Mixing vodka, rum, beer?

    Most people would be puking their guts out after that alone (at least if they drank in the quantities that college students do.)

  • barfman||

    No, not mixing. Just drinking them in random order: He drinks a whiskey drink; he drinks a vodka drink. He drinks a lager drink; he drinks a cider drink.

    The horror!

  • ||

    Don't cry for me, next door neighbor.

  • ||

    We need a law banning these products that is named after a cute college girl who got drunk on this crap and hurt herself falling down the frat house stairs.

    Bipartisan support for such a law (which will accomplish nothing other than waste some tax dollars)is thereby assured.

  • Michael||

    Involve a lacrosse team somehow and you've got yourself a winner.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Perfect Media Storm:

    Kaitlyn, a pretty white gal from down south, goes on a class trip to a beach somewhere. She drinks a can of Four Loko, goes crazy and swims out into the ocean where she is attacked by sharks! She could be saved by her classmates, but they have all had heart attacks from drinking Four Loko too. The lifeguards can't save her because they have been cut due to the local Tea Party activists.

    That is a story with legs.

  • hehe||

    Or without legs, given that the shark has probably bitten them off.

  • mr simple||

    That story only works if the shark raped her, which it probably did since all sharks are potential rapists.

  • Anonymous||

    It's actually dolphins that are nature's rapists.

  • ||

    No, they pioneered gay marriage. And look where it got them. Tangled in tuna nets.

    Do you want America to become tangled in a tuna net?

  • ||

    ABC News says Four Loko is "cocaine in a can," while the Des Moines Register says it's "a blackout in a can."

    That's good ad copy right there.

  • Rich||

    I was particularly concerned that these drinks tend to target young people.

    How about a mandated label like "This drink is targeted at mature adults"? Or, more simply, prohibiting sellers from giving away free toys with Four Loco purchases.

  • Pip||

    They call them "Happy Hours" for a reason.

  • Joe M||

    Haha, excellent!

  • Michael||

    Informal survey: Who here suspects that the caffeinated drinks may actually have a positive effect on crashes caused by drunk driving in that the caffeine at least might help some kid that's otherwise completely blotto to keep his head up while behind the wheel?

  • lambdalion||

    I think the caffeine is just as likely to get him behind the wheel when he would otherwise be passed out on someone's couch. But that's not the point.

  • ||

    /nanny state

  • ||

    Cocaine in a can? Didn't they ban that shit last year?

    Either way, the Four Loko people were just handed the perfect advertising tag line, and it's not even self-promotional bullshit, it's a quote from a product review! You can't buy publicity like that. I'd have that printed right on the label, like a blurb on a movie poster: "ABC News calls Four Loko 'cocaine in a can.'" Maybe right under the banner saying "Banned in 3 states!"

  • ||

    When a load of deadly heroin hits the street and a death or two makes the news, your average junkie's biggest concern is "Where can I get some?"

  • Pip||

    That's the thing I could never figure out about junkies. Were I one, I would only shoot up a lttle bit every time I scored a new bag (or however it's sold).

  • ||

    I imagine it's like trying to eat just one Pringle.

  • ||

    Michigan's ban on "alcohol energy drinks"...the Washington State Liquor Control Board voted to impose an emergency ban...Oklahoma's Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission likewise announced a "moratorium"...

    The domino theory lives! Is it too late to send in the "advisors"?

  • ||

    I was in the grocery store a week or so ago, saw a can of Joose sitting there while perusing the beer section, and decided I had to try it after some of Sullum's earlier coverage.

    The shit is disgusting. Way too sweet with a persistent chemical burning taste, and a shitty stomach ache/headache to go along with it. It's less of an "awake drunk" and more of a dizzy, mild anxiousness.

    It sort of reminded me of my K2 experiment. Conclusion: fuck that shit, legal or otherwise. I'll take real weed and real beer.

  • ||

    People who will drink abominations like Red Bull mixed with Jagermeister are too stupid for me to care about. I hope they all set themselves on fire.

  • LarryA||

    By taking these drinks off the shelves we are saying "no" to irresponsible drinking and taking steps to prevent incidents like the one that made these college students so ill.

    Actually, they’re saying “no” to responsible drinking. Folks can’t learn to make good choices if you take away their options. OTOH to the nannys teaching personable responsibility is a bug, not a feature.

  • Paul||

    When does the liquor control board come up for re-election?

  • ||

    Combining stimulants such as caffeine and depressants such as alcohol can place undue strain on the heart and central nervous system, dehydrate the body and hinder the body's ability to metabolize alcohol.


    That is complete bullshit. Nothing can hinder your body's ability to metabolize alcohol. The liver metabolizes alcohol at a rate of about 1 ounce per hour, no matter your body size. No amount of coffee, caffeine, or cold showers can speed up or slow down the process.

  • ||

    I'm not a [medical] doctor, but it seems plausible that severe dehydration would cause a lot of bodily functions to stall, especially ones that require the ability to "dump" metabolites for eventual excretion.

    Seriously doubt that caffeine dehydrates you that much, though.

  • Paul||

    Hint: all poison is in the dose.

  • ||

    Smoke pot and drink coffee. That was one of my favorite buzzes.

  • ||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1986XfM_ds

  • ||

    Some proponent of the ban said on npr this morning that a can of Four Loko was equivalent to 4 beers and 6 cups of coffee.

    Uh huh. What other lies have you told today, Mr. Nanny Fraidy Pants?

  • ||

    It's not a lie if he was talking about O'Douls and decaf.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I don't know (or care) about the caffeine, but the alcohol content wasn't far off. Four Loko cans are 23.5 ounces, @ 12% alcohol. Compared with 12 ounce cans of 5% alcohol, four beers isn't a BS comparison.

    Why this should matter, or be subject of law, is an entirely different matter.

  • Mr Lizard||

    Joose is pretty rough. But the orange Four Loko makes an amazing primer for a full night. For those who don't know: Only one can per person per night, and then sip bud light the rest of the night. With two cans you'll be looking for a fight. 3 cans and you might be looking face down. Your experience and bond hearing may vary.

  • ||

    Whew, that was a close one. I almost tried that stuff.

  • prolefeed||

    That's the thing I could never figure out about junkies. Were I one, I would only shoot up a lttle bit every time I scored a new bag (or however it's sold).

    If you were a junkie, you would understand that such self-restraint while jonesing is not the usual course of events.

  • ||

    Hah yeah, I'm pretty sure mainlining dope is about the Blast, not about careful experimentation.

  • ||

    This is why America is in decline. In the past, great inventions were hailed. Today, the inventor of Four Lokos will have to hide in shame, and no doubt his employer will be subject to lawsuits by a bunch of whiney miscreants. Miscreants who are no doubt the progeny of boomers who were mixing mescaline with dexies in their youth. I am old. I wish we'd had Four Lokos in my college days.

  • Peter Bagge||

    My fellow Washingtonians also just voted to keep the state's monopoly on hard alcohol sales, under the belief that 7-11 clerks never proof their customers (while state liquor store employees ALWAYS do, apparently). By this logic, beer and wine should only be sold by the state as well, but no one's suggesting that because that might make people's heads hurt.

    Otherwise intelligent people I know ALWAYS fall for the "it's for the safety of the children" scare tactics. They immediately stop thinking critically the moment The Children are brought up (and in this case "the children" include 20-year-olds who just returned from Iraq).

  • Paul||

    As should Adult movies, and anything else you can possibly think of that shouldn't be selling its product to minors. Cigarattes and marijuana, I'm looking at you.

  • Triumph||

    Clearly, we need an episode of The Alyona Show dedicated to this topic.

  • Paul||

    No, what we need is our politicians to just stop.

  • Jason||

    Buy them a case of Four Loko.

  • ||

    In Washington state "She is not my Governor!!" Bumper stickers still can be found on the back of pickups state wide.

  • Name Witheld ||

    I am old. I wish we'd had Four Lokos in my college days.

    I, too, am old, and a collegiate affinity for cocaine and Wild Turkey makes me think Four Loko is koolaid with training wheels.

  • ||

    What strikes me here is the application of the Precautionary Principle:

    'Sharon Foster, who chairs the board, explains that it is "acting now to ensure these products do not contribute to a tragedy before the Food and Drug Administration or Legislature can act."'

    Just like the Happy Meals, these fuckheads think they can legislate anything. Where anything can be 'law' there is no LAW.

  • Andrew||

    We need to lower our drinkg limit to 18. Teach our kids how to handle their liquor BEFORE they're sent to college, where binge drinking is the norm.

    There's a website suggesting you stock up on Four Loko and resell it after it's banned. It's crazy, but not a bad idea.
    http://hubpages.com/hub/Four-L.....Investment

  • Hacha Cha||

    Caffeine is good to consume with alcohol, its been shown to lessen liver damage in alcoholics and others with a high risk of liver disease.

  • ||

    If they go on sale after the 120 day ban is over kids are gonna snatch those up like hot cakes, basically ruining the point of the ban

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