Wow. So it’s come to this. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA is set to ban Four Loko, along with other products like Joose (and presumably, Sparks) that combine caffeine with alcohol. This follows on the heels of a number of states, most recently Massachusetts, banning the product locally.
The FDA’s main argument is that the caffeine in these drinks give people energy, which misleads them into thinking they aren’t as drunk as they are. At least that’s an attempt to ground this in science, unlike the feral politicians who are frothing at the opportunity to ban something that can stand in for now as the cause of all alcohol related ills, like drunken car crashes and alcohol poisoning.
I agree with this Boston Globe editorial, which calls these bans “silly and reactionary“, as it labels Four Loko as a singular threat sweeping the nation. The politicians grandstanding on this issue sweep under the rug the real problems of underage drinking, particularly drunk driving, which have little to do with Four Loko in particular.
The truth is, the 21 year old drinking age has turned older high school students and college students into furtive criminals, maximizing their drunkenness in sleeper cells where the police, college authorities and parents can’t find them. The relationship between adults and youths over alcohol is counterproductive, as prohibition of popular substances usually is. I can only imagine what kind of cult status the FDA has bestowed on Four Loko, which young people are sure to squirrel away until the next fad comes along.
As I wrote in my previous post, I am waiting to see the State Liquor Authority ban upscale Manhattan bars from serving Red Bull Vodkas, or, for that matter, my drink of choice, whiskey and coke. It seems the caffeine, rather than boosting me on Friday evening after a long work week, is simply tricking me into thinking I’m sober. Maybe I should be served a shot of whiskey alongside a warm can of coke, like some bars I went to in India.
In general, I am against prohibition, especially as a remedy to a much larger social problem. But this case in particular has stirred me because the issue was led by politicians. Had the FDA quietly done its own study, and concluded, as some of my friends have, that Four Loko is simply more out of control than other stuff on the deli shelf, I wouldn’t have shed a tear. But in an era when we have many, many serious problems to deal with nationally and locally, I find the politicians behind this ban embarrassing and shameless.
The ban is expected to take effect on December 10, and following a pronouncement that may come as early as tomorrow, shipment’s from manufacturers to distributors are expected to cease. If you’re planning a Four Loko farewell party, now’s the time to stock up.