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CURT WOODWARD   |   November 11, 2010    7:46 AM ET

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Retailers have a week to clear millions of dollars worth of alcoholic energy drinks from their shelves after state regulators banned them Wednesday, citing the hospitalization of nine dangerously drunk college students last month.

The emergency ban, similar to those in Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma, takes effect Nov. 18. Washington's rule targets beer-based drinks that also feature caffeine, such as the malt-liquor energy drink Four Loko.

It's Time Four Sanity

Jeff A. Katz   |   November 9, 2010    3:48 PM ET

"But Mom! I want to go to the park!"

When I was a kid, there were plenty of parts of "no," I didn't understand. As I grew up, I found out it wasn't just my parents I would have to look to for the green light. Until I was 16, it wasn't Mom and Dad saying I couldn't drive, but the laws of New York State. When I turned 21, federal law finally allowed me to imbibe my first taste of alcohol (and if you believe that let's turn this boat around before we sail off the edge of this flat earth). Now, as a full-fledged adult -- if you don't believe me you should have seen my 5 o'clock shadow the other day, thanks in part to the extra hour from Daylight Savings Time -- I can drink, smoke, vote, and gamble to my liver, lungs, wallet, and conscience's content and inclinations.

Not necessarily. It looks like our nanny state has found our stash of Playboys under the mattress and our bottle of Admiral Nelson rum in the closet. Don't let the plastic bottle fool you -- admiral is a higher rank than captain -- but if a handful of people start using the contents of that bottle or the contents of, say, a 23.5 ounce can of 12 percent alcohol by volume, fruity, caffeinated beverage, to where it causes self-harm, stop the presses, ring the alarm, and hide your kids, hide your wife, because they'll start snatching your Four Loko up.

All across the nation, Four Loko fever is spreading. Four Loko, easily identifiable by its neon camouflage pattern at the front of your local convenience store's refrigerator, has been selling like hot cakes, if hot cakes were $3 cans of over-sugared, highly-caffeinated malt beverage. If we're going to get all hot and bothered about cheese, is it any wonder the big wigs and small wigs of government and academia are going "loco" to ban Four Loko?

What happened to personal responsibility and moderation? When universities and the government start acting in loco (Loko?) parentis, when do young adults get a chance to act and think for themselves? Drink a Four Loko, throw up in a cab and on your friends, and get carried home on your 22nd birthday and you'll make the decision for yourself whether or not you want a Watermelon Four Loko the next time you're at the corner bodega. I can buy Devil's Springs 160-proof vodka and mix it with Kool Aid powder, throw in a couple 5-Hour Energy drinks and I've got myself a sugary, caffeinated, death in a cup atom bomb. I don't recommend this hooch, but it's my prerogative if I want to go out and buy all of these components, even 5-Hour Energy, which is not FDA-approved (whereas Four Loko is), mix them up and paint the town red - which may not just be an expression if I got my hands on some red paint, given the energy and drunkenness induced by that creation.

Already, Michigan, the mitten of the Great Lakes, has banned Four Loko from in-state purchase, while colleges across the nation are prohibiting the drink on campus. It's offensive enough that most states maintain blue laws (not that I really ever want to buy alcohol on Sunday mornings), but now it's not just "when" that we are being told we can purchase, but "what." Fortunately, for my thinning wallet, the Empire State cannot ban products that already have FDA-approval, but not for lack of trying and an agenda to create a loophole.

Four Loko is far from my first choice if I want a stiff drink, but I don't think that it should not be allowed to be a choice. Bright colors and flavors does not equal marketing to kids, and shouldn't the stores that sell Four Loko be ensuring that they are only selling this product to adults? Trust me: Four Lokos do not taste like candy. And yes, I know they are far from healthy, but all this month, while people are licking their fingers after downing the limited-time offer, 500-calorie McRib, or drinking their limited-edition Spike Lee-collaboration Absolut Brooklyn vodka because of its bright, hip logo, let's realize we all have the capacity to decide for ourselves whether or not something warrants being illegal, or if it's merely something that's "bad" for us that we can choose whether or not to purchase.

Four Loko is not some new, untested substance, and it's a far cry from meth, crack, even marijuana, which are illegal for (more) valid reasons. Four Loko is like any other mixed drink we choose to make or malt beverage we can buy, bearing the same inherent danger as these drinks. There are bigger fish to fry than "issues" like caffeine in alcoholic beverages or steroids in baseball. The government needs to regulate emissions standards, off-shore drilling, the quality of meats in our supermarket, and various other aspects of society with significant impacts and exigency that we as individuals cannot regulate or control, not the minutia of what we eat, what we drink, and how we decide to let off a little steam and get Loko. So calm down, Mom and Dad, I'm not a little kid anymore and I've got this ... I'll be at the park.

All-You-Can-Drink Four Loko, $15

Jonah Green   |   November 5, 2010    1:41 PM ET

A lot has been written about malt liquor sports drink hybrid Four Loko lately. With Michigan's recent ban of the drink, it is possible other states will soon follow suit. Will this be the city's next Zima?

Lower East Side restauranteur Eddie Huang fears the worst. "We've actually been stockpiling Four Loko for the apocalypse," he told Eater. Huang, owner of lower east side joint Xiao Ye, has pledged to host an all-you-can-drink deal at Xiao Ye every Thursday to fight against the ban.

"Four Loko is not a drink," he explained, "it is chlorine in the gene pool. It weeds out all the people unfit for the next generation, like Darwin in a can."

Xiao Ye, Four Loko Thursdays. 6pm to 11pm all you can drink Four Loko $15.

UPDATE: Upon learning that the deal was illegal, Huang canceled the event.

The Daily News told the restauranteur that all-you-can-drink specials are illegal in New York State.

"Now I gotta figure out how to give people enough Four Loko so they can get their blackout," Huang said. "People like to black out."

UPDATE 2: It looks like defiant Eddie Huang will host a Four Loko special, only now it's $3 a pop to keep it legal.

Michigan BANS Four Loko

Leah Finnegan   |   November 5, 2010    9:06 AM ET

Michigan has become the first state to outright ban alcoholic energy drink Four Loko.

The MSU State News has more:

Manufacturers have 30 days from Thursday to get rid of the products -- those containing not only alcohol, but caffeine and occasionally other energy additives like guarana and taurine -- from Michigan markets, commission spokeswoman Andrea Miller said. Consumers still will be able to possess the drink, since the commission does not have control on out-of-state transactions, but it cannot be purchased in the state, she said.


The commission decided to ban the substance because of multiple recent news reports about the dangers and consequences of the drinks, Miller said.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Chicago City Council has also brought up banning on the drink, and that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Commission told the state's licensed vendors to cease sales of it.

Other colleges, including Ramapo College, the University of Rhode Island and Central Washington University have prohibited the drink on campus.

The drink, which has the alcohol content of six light beers and as much caffeine as two cups of coffee, has been blamed for the hospitalization of nine students in Washington.

Associated Press   |   November 4, 2010    7:57 AM ET

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- The University of Rhode Island has become the latest college to ban a new drink that packs a powerful combination of alcohol and caffeine.

The university's president on Wednesday banned Four Loko from campus.

Four Loko is often referred to as "blackout in a can" because it contains more than four times as much alcohol as an ordinary beer and is relatively cheap.

FRANK BRUNI   |   November 1, 2010    5:38 PM ET

While Four Loko has been on the market for only about two years, the dangers it poses are hardly new or isolated. Almost from the moment the caffeine-heavy energy drink Red Bull was introduced in the late 1980s, it was mixed with alcohol by revelers intent on bleariness without weariness. The vodka Red Bull even has its own moniker (a vod-bomb) and Wikipedia entry, and the Web is rife with recipes for Red Bull with rum or tequila or schnapps.


Their names suggest the kind of potent payoff their fans are after. There's the "crack pipe," "the shark bite," "the Hulk."

Leah Finnegan and Danielle Wiener-Bronner   |   October 27, 2010   12:33 PM ET

Four Loko, the highly caffeinated alcoholic beverage jokingly referred to as "blackout in a can" and "liquid crack," is not all that funny. The drink -- the idea of which was concocted by three Ohio State University graduates in 2005 -- has been implicated in multiple hospitalizations and at least one heart attack. Officials in several states are calling for it to be banned.

Below, we let the numbers associated with Four Loko speak for themselves. Let us know if you have more to add in the comments section.


  |   October 27, 2010   11:55 AM ET

Recent concerns over the popular alcoholic energy drink Four Loko have prompted at least one Boston liquor store to stop selling the beverage that is often referred to as "liquid crack" and "cocaine in a can."

Four Loko was linked to a recent incident involving nine Central Washington University students, some of whom were hospitalized on Oct. 9 for alcohol poisoning, according to a statement by the Washington Attorney General's office.

Gina Potthoff   |   October 27, 2010    9:42 AM ET

Three Ohio State University graduates' invention is at the center of a national debate: Are caffeinated alcoholic drinks safe?

Chris Hunter, Jason Freeman and Jeff Wright came up with the idea for Four Loko in 2005, after noticing that students were mixing alcohol and caffeine in bars.

SHANNON DININNY   |   October 27, 2010    8:53 AM ET

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Sugary, high-alcohol energy drinks that are popular with college students who want to get drunk quickly and cheaply came under renewed scrutiny Monday as investigators announced that nine freshmen had been hospitalized after drinking them at an off-campus party.

Several states are considering outlawing the drinks and at least two universities have banned them from campus while the Food and Drug Administration reviews their safety.

Washington State Officials Want To Ban Four Loko (WATCH)

Leah Finnegan   |   October 26, 2010    2:47 PM ET

Turns out "blackout in a can," the nickname for potent alcohol-caffeine drink Four Loko, is an apt moniker.

The drink has been identified as the reason why dozens of Central Washington University students fell ill -- nine were hospitalized -- at an off-campus party earlier this month. Investigators originally thought the students had been drugged.

A CWU student who wished to remain anonymous described the scene of the party to ABC: "These people were fighting for consciousness almost ... their eyes were rolling back in their head."

Central Washington has banned Four Loko, as has Ramapo College in New Jersey. The FDA is investigating the drink.

One can of Four Loko equates to six cans of light beer and two cups of coffee.

WATCH: ABC report on Four Loko's dangers:

SHANNON DININNY   |   October 25, 2010    2:44 PM ET

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Sugary, high-alcohol energy drinks that are popular with college students who want to get drunk quickly and cheaply came under renewed scrutiny Monday as investigators announced that nine freshmen had been hospitalized after drinking them at an off-campus party.

Several states are considering outlawing the drinks and at least two universities have banned them from campus while the Food and Drug Administration reviews their safety.

BANNED: 10 Items You Can't Bring To Campus

Danielle Wiener-Bronner   |   October 18, 2010    5:24 PM ET

It seems like every time you turn around something new has been banned from a college campus (lest we forget elementary and high schools). While some seem justified (alcoholic soda pop) others may be excessive (bottled water.) Below, check out a list of ten items and practices that have been banned -- or nearly banned -- from campuses across the country.

Do you approve of these? Have bans been implemented on your campus? Let us know!


WPIX NEWSROOM   |   October 16, 2010   10:47 AM ET

MAHWAH, N.J. (WPIX) --
A New Jersey college has banned a popular caffeinated alcoholic beverage fearing they could lead to what officials call "blackout in a can."

Ramapo College in Mahwah took the action after nearly two dozen students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning soon after the start of the fall semester.

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