Forget about Four Loko

By Samantha Bent

Caffeinated alcoholic beverages including Four Loko have been banned in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has become the fifth state in the U.S. to ban the sale of caffeinated alcohlic beverages such as Four Loko, which have become increasingly popular with college students.

Four Loko, also known as “blackout in a can” and “liquid crack,” has been blamed for at least a dozen college students being hospitalized. It was already banned in Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma, and is also under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  

College students were the target market, and those at Fitchburg State were not immune.

 “They’re only$3 and you get hammered,” said Andrew Manning, a sophomore nursing major. “You just have to be smart about how you drink it.”

But some are concerned about a higher price down the line.

“Please be aware many students nationwide have been hospitalized following severe reactions to this product, which combines high levels of alcohol in combination with equally large amounts of caffeine and sugar,” said Stan Bucholc, dean of academic and student life, in a recent message students. “It is a dangerous concoction, even for healthy young people.”

What makes this concoction so dangerous?

Four Loko generally contains 12 percent alcohol by volume, which is about four times the amount in an average beer. But it isn’t just the alcohol that makes it so dangerous – it’s the combination of alcohol with caffeine.

Phusion Products, makers of Four Loko, said the product was developed based on the increasing popularity of caffeine-and-alcohol beverages like rum and Coke, Jägerbombs and Irish coffee.

So, what is it that makes Four Loko so much worse than other caffeinated alcoholic beverages?

Size is definitely an issue, because a single Four Loko is sold in a 23.5-ounce can, almost twice the size of a typical 12-ounce drink.

Phusion Products recently released an open letter to state and federal regulators, defending the drink. “We added multiple additional label warnings to our cans at the request of regulators,” said Phusion Products founders Chris Hunter, Jaisen Freeman, and Jeff Wright in the open letter. “Our alcohol-by-volume warnings are in a font as large as is allowed by law. And where required, we sell versions of our product with reduced alcohol content.”

The company Web site claims that all of their tests, including those done by independent testers, have concluded that it is safe to consume alcohol and caffeine at the same time. It is the fact that they are sold in such large quantities and for such a small price that makes this drink seem attractive to college students.

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