"Blackout in a Can." "Liquid Cocaine." "Alcopop." These are just a few of the nicknames given to the new college drink du jour: Four Loko, an alcoholic energy drink that offers the thrill of alcohol and a caffeine buzz all in one package.
Call it what you will, Four Loko and other alcoholic energy drinks are facing scrutiny after reports that the caffeinated, malted beverage was responsible for the hospitalization of nine freshmen in Washington state this month.
Four Loko is clearly marketed to younger drinkers. Packaged in brightly colored cans with fruity flavors such as Lemon Lime and Watermelon, the 23.5-ounce can has an alcohol content of 12 percent, about the equivalent of four beers. It sells for about $2.50 a can, making it a cheap and effective buzz.
The nine students who were hospitalized had blood alcohol levels ranging from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent. A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.30 percent is considered potentially lethal.
All of this has many folks wondering if these types of alcoholic energy drinks are safe, and if they should be marketed to younger drinkers. Several states are considering outlawing the drinks, and at least two universities have banned the drinks from campus.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others are calling for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intervene. "The FDA needs to determine once and for all if these drinks are safe, and if they’re not, they ought to be banned,” said Schumer in a statement in July.
For its part, the FDA launched an investigation nearly a year ago into the safety of alcoholic energy drinks, but their research has not yet been finalized.
What do you think? Should Four Loko and other similar drinks be banned from college campuses? Should they be outlawed or should college and government officials focus on efforts to teach kids (and adults) how to drink responsibly?