11/19/2010 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Crusade Against Four Loko

Image: Next Media Animation

The crusade against Four Loko is wrong. We have every right to drink a deranged caffeinated alcohol cocktail if we want to. It is potent but it does not kill people, as the sensational news stories will have you believe. The few that have "died" from it, thus igniting this controversy, died because they drank it irresponsibly; combining it (usually several Four Lokos) with other liquor, beer, and, it often seems, with diet pills. We should not have to suffer the irresponsibility of a few. Demonizing the drink is unjust because abusing any powerful alcoholic substance can lead to similar harmful consequences.

A recent story in the New York Times described the practice of "Four Loko Hands" parties, in which revelers drink from cans of Four Loko duct taped to their hands. Obviously this a bad idea, but if you're duct taping large cans of caffeinated alcohol to your hands then you probably know what you're getting yourself into. If you don't then you certainly can't blame anyone else, especially the drink or its makers, for the consequences afterwards. No disrespect is meant in this following example, but there is the commonly cited case of the 20-year-old in Tallahassee who fatally shot himself after drinking several cans of Four Loko. Blame should be put on his poor judgment or the deli, supermarket, or friend that provided him with the drink. Blame cannot be placed on the beverage alone. The same thing could have happened with any other liquor.

Lastly, and this is particularly frustrating, the drink makes no attempt disguise what it is, so I don't see what is objectionable about keeping it on the market. It is clearly sold as cheap "hell of a night" in a can. The loud colorful 12 oz product even looks diabolical. The word "Loko" is scrawled in a mad man's scribble along the side. There is hardly an inch of can not covered with the words Alcohol, Caffeine, Guarana, Taurine, or Malt in bold letters. "WE ID" is written on a black dot. It may even be the only can with a black ring opener! The makers of the drink are not trying to pass off Four Loko as anything other than what it is, as some suggest. Even if you've never heard of Four Loko you know what it is all about the instant you see the product. If you don't then you shouldn't be drinking it and ruining the fun for everyone else.

American consumers enjoy this extreme product. They should have the right to keep buying it. You don't see the country rushing to ban McDonalds or cigarettes, products enjoyed by millions but widely known for their ill effects. Banning Four Loko may even achieve little. Those that love the drink will find another way to get its desired effect, as happens with most contraband. The results may be more dangerous than the original drink.