Four Loko Buzzkill

The California Legislature has defined what it means to party out of bounds. Lawmakers have sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown that would outlaw caffeinated beer beverages.

There are a few of them out on the market, like Four Loko, Joose, and Tilt. They are a curious, and some argue dangerous, mixture of beer, caffeine, and other ingredients like taurine (thought to increase physical and mental awareness) and guarana (which contains more caffeine than coffee).

Opponents also say the colorful “extreme” graphics on the can are appealing to young kids, who are more likely to abuse them.

There is evidence to back that up. Back in January, two teenagers were found dead in Huntington Beach, with an empty can of Four Loko nearby.

Nine students were hospitalized after a Four Loko binge at Central Washington University, and a family in Florida is suing Four Loko’s makers for wrongful death. They say their son drank at least three large cans of the stuff before raising a friend’s .22-caliber pistol to his head and firing.

So it wasn’t hard to jump on the bandwagon to argue for sanity instead of Four Loko.

But beer remains legal. Caffeine remains legal. The state has said marijuana is legal for medical use.

Many a saloon pushes Red Bull and Vodka as a Happy Hour favorite.

Even the highly respected Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke) falls into the caffeinated/alcoholic drink category.

Then there’s Kahlua. The makers of Kahlua take great pride in explaining the painstaking process of combining the finest roasted coffee beans with the finest distilled sugarcane.

Elegant, perhaps. Delicious even.

But effect-wise, how far away is it from Four Loko?

Phusion Projects, the maker of Four Loko, argues that these other drinks “contain three to four times as much alcohol as our products.”

They say the same kids who wound up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning from their beverage will now wind up there with empty bottles of Smirnoff alongside cans of Red Bull.

They have a point.

The real issue is why these kids find are abusing alcohol, drugs, or anything else. This bill makes us feel like we’re doing something, but no one should think it’s going to solve anything.

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