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Too loco Four Loko: ban sparks controversy

By Sammie Levin
Published: December 2010

The infamous drink Four Loko, a hybrid of alcohol and caffeine dubbed “blackout in a can, met its demise nationwide after repeated FDA warnings provoked many states, including Massachusetts, to ban the beverage.
College students everywhere are mourning.
But worse, many have resorted to buying the product in bulk before it disappears from shelves forever.
The website Texts From Last Night, a daily showcase of anonymous texts sent from around the country, is a goldmine of evidence of this phenomenon.
“They told me they were banning Four Lokos so yeah I did have to buy 42 of them, someone from Maryland posted.
Some have even managed to reap financial profits in their efforts, such as an Alabaman that posted, “She has a refrigerator full of Four Loko and is charging $15 a can¦she is like a mini Donald Trump.
A text from a New Yorker’€“Had to use the product locator on the Four Loko website to find them at home. Got to go in the backroom of a grocery store to get them. Dedication’€epitomizes the sentiment shared by patrons of Loko that desperate times call for desperate measures.
Sometimes, however, it seems desperate times also call for celebrations: “These Four Loko going away parties are gonna kill me, an Iowa native said.
Why exactly, amid widespread controversy, has the drink garnered such a cult following? Likely for the same reason it was outlawed.
One can contains roughly as much alcohol as five beers and packs in approximately as much caffeine as an entire cup of coffee.
The FDA has continuously warned against this lethal mixture, deeming it “a public health concern, because caffeine inhibits people from feeling the full extent of their intoxication by counteracting the depressive effects of alcohol with increased alertness.
Consequently, people drinking these two ingredients simultaneously are scientifically proven to be more likely to consume a far greater amount of alcohol, posing a serious problem in the binge-drinking world on campuses.
At Ramapo College in New Jersey, for example, 17 students were hospitalized after drinking Four Lokos, which led the college to prohibit it even before state governments took action.
This is not an isolated incident. According to Socialtik Magazine, one in four students have tried a beverage like Four Loko that mixes alcohol and caffeine and masks it all with “a fruity flavor.
“If you’ve never heard of Four Loko, you probably aren’t in college, a writer for the magazine said.
Hospitalizations following Four Loko consumption have occurred on numerous campuses and there have even been allegations that the drink has been responsible for several deaths, such as 14-year-old Valeria Rodriguez in Texas killed by a driver under the influence of Four Loko.
Yet in face of these incidents that testify to the proven dangers of the drink, the company that manufactures it, Phusion Projects, defends itself on its website, claiming, “We go above and beyond federal and state labeling requirements with multiple labels on all Four products that prominently show that the beverage contains alcohol. Our labels and marketing materials clearly state our message: If you’re 21 or older and choose to drink, please drink responsibly. If you’re under 21, respect the law and don’t drink.
Saturday Night Live recently poked fun at the ludicrousness of this justification by impersonating one of the founders of the company.
Seth Meyers: Well, to be fair, college students have been hospitalized after using your product.
“Founder: Yeah, after misusing the product¦these college kids are drinking the entire can! What are they thinking? It’s called servings, kids.
Seth Meyers: How many servings are in the can?
“Founder: 120.
Though it is obviously that the drink became increasingly popular on college campuses quite rapidly before it was banned, did South students follow the trend as well?
While some students admit that they know of a few people who have tried the drink, the general consensus is that it has not made such an impression here.
“It wasn’t really a big hype, senior Tess Levy said. “I think that everyone knew the reputation of it, so they kind of stayed away.
A relief indeed. Another relief? According to the company website,
“Phusion believes in giving back to the communities in which it operates. Hopefully that involves making up for the nationwide damage and uproar it has caused.

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