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Southeast Missouri State University student publication
September 19, 2014

Removal of caffeine doesn't correct irresponsibility

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Urban Dictionary defines "pregraming" as "getting drunk or generally intoxicated before a party or social event." Some of the most popular pregame products are the new blend of highly caffeinated and highly alcoholic drinks.

Recently the fruity flavors of Four Loko have taken center stage as the martyr for the high-energy alcoholic beverage community.

The problem, the FDA notes, is the mixture of ingredients. According to the Los Angeles Times, one 23.5 ounce can of Four Loko contains as much caffeine as three cups of coffee and is the alcohol equivalent of four beers. Since caffeine can mask the effects of alcohol, the FDA sees the drink as a "serious health concern."

If fourlokostories.com can be believed, the FDA may not be far off.

The following is an excerpt from fourlokostories.com, a website that allows Loko connoisseurs to retell what they recall from their Four Loko experiences. In an effort to avoid "blue" material, all expletives have been replaced by variations of the word "Smurf."

And "Jamal" writes: "Mayne, I was meeting my girlfriend's parents for the first time and was really smurfing nervous. It was a two hour drive…so I figured I'd drink a 40 or some smurf on the way to loosen up. While at the gas station I see these 4loko's cheap as SMURF! Well I drank two. I have no recollection but I learned in the morning…I was wearing a bandana trying to sell her dad a zanax (sic). Proceeded to almost fight when he declined… and I ended up smurfing (this drink gives you mad smurfs bro) on her mom's curtains."

"Jamal's" story is similar to most of the site's 15 pages worth, though it seems to be the only one where curtains are used as toilet paper. Many of them start with phrases like "wasn't feeling it," but eventually allude to memory loss and awakening in an area code hundreds of miles from where the original imbibing began. The concoctions, sometimes referred to as "blackout in a can," are trending across college campuses like Twitter topics. And with an increase in alcohol related hospitalization among college students, the government was bound to take action.

On Nov. 17 the FDA issued warning letters to Phusion Projects, makers of Four Loko, and companies that produce similar products. The letters gave manufacturers 30 days to change their formula or risk a possible U.S. ban. Succumbing to the ferocity of the FDA, Four Loko has agreed to remove the punch from its alcoholic punches.

The governments drive to reformulate is an attempt to dissuade irresponsible drinking. This is flawed logic. Irresponsible drinkers aren't going to let the lack of caffeine interrupt their irresponsible drinking. If overconsumption of Reese's Peanut butter Cups were responsible for a rise in obesity-related deaths would the FDA demand the tasty treats be removed from store shelves? If so those who craved the combination of peanut butter and chocolate would still be able to dip a Hershey bar into a Jiff jar.

Similarly drinkers wanting a caffeine buzz have a litany of energy drinks to add to an even wider variety of potent potables. Removing caffeine from Four Loko won't solve the problem.

Furthermore Loko's niche seems to be younger and sometimes underage drinkers. In 2006, one year after Loko went on the market and well before its increase in popularity, a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated nearly 5,000 people "under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking."

If Four Loko suddenly became unavailable this cohort would revert back to their Mad Dog or Boone's.

The only thing the FDA seems to be accomplishing is impeding Phusion Projects' right to produce a popular product and hinder a business's growth during a time of economic downturn.

Leave Loko alone and put forth more effort on programs designed to warn the underage and the grossly negligent.

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