Is A Ban Needed On Alcoholic Energy Drinks?

Reports say the the Food & Drug Administration is planning to announce today that caffeine is an unsafe food additive in alcoholic drinks. This would effectively ban a whole range of products like Four Loko, Joose and Sparks, which market themselves as a sort of boozed-up energy drink.

But the question remains: Is this ban actually necessary? Caffeine (and other, similar stimulants) and alcohol is nothing new — Red Bull and Vodka is still a popular drink at many bars, as are rum and Cokes, whiskey and Cokes, and let’s not forget Irish Coffee.

Proponents of legislation against drinks like Four Loko say they are deliberately marketed to young and underage people. They also claim that the stimulation from the caffeine tricks drinkers into thinking they are sober enough to do things like drive a car when they are actually impaired.

So what do you think — Is the FDA making a smart move or just worried about headlines?

FDA expected to ban alcoholic energy drinks Wed [Washington Post]

Comments

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  1. OnePumpChump says:

    No, a ban on alcoholic energy drinks is not needed. A ban on people who would drink such a thing might be nice, though.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I dunno dude, you’d think that, but I called my mom the other night and she had just drunk half of a Four Loko. I told her to pour that shit down the drain. She isn’t one to usually drink anything like that it surprised me.

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Especially roided up d-bags in their Ed Hardy shirts.

  2. Alvis says:

    No, of course not.

  3. Geekybiker says:

    The government needs to stop trying to be my mother.

  4. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    This is another one of those things where I’m torn.

    One the one hand, I know large quantities of caffiene combined with alcohol can be, and often is, bad news in some way, shape or form.

    However, I’m generally against having to legislate against stupid people doing stupid shit. If people don’t learn that actions have consequences, they’re gonna keep on being stupid :/

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      “Stupid people are being helped by the government to defeat Darwin.”

    • Kavatar says:

      What happens when those consequences involve crashing into cars of other drivers?

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        You say that like banning these particular beverages would make that problem go away :/

        • Kavatar says:

          I don’t. And that’s not a problem that would ever go away completely. But I do agree with the opinion that caffeinated alcoholic beverages make it easier to THINK you’re okay to drive, therefore I am fine with them being banned.

          • tmac40 says:

            Until there is definitive research, this is just speculation. People should be smart enough to know that if you just drank a 24oz 12% alcohol drink, you shouldn’t drive. A ban is completely pointless anyway. Unless they are going to ban all energy drinks and other sources of caffeine, people who want to combine alcohol and caffeine will.

            • Kavatar says:

              I know plenty of people who drink the canned versions but wouldn’t drink that combination if they had to mix it themselves. You’re never gonna be able to ban the combination of caffeine and alcohol, but surely removing the easiest method of obtaining it will have some effect.

              I don’t really see how the existence of these things has any benefit to society, but if that’s just me, then so be it.

        • Kavatar says:

          I don’t. And that’s not a problem that would ever go away completely. But I do agree with the opinion that caffeinated alcoholic beverages make it easier to THINK you’re okay to drive, therefore I am fine with them being banned.

          • pop top says:

            But it’s an opinion, not a fact. Did they actually test to see if people behave that way? I mean, after a few rum and Cokes, I know I can’t drive, regardless of how much caffeine I consumed.

          • bigTrue says:

            So, because some people are dumb and do dumb things the laws should be written with only them in mind?

            How about punishing the stupid and writing laws so that people who don’t act dumb can still do what they want instead of treating everyone like the stupid?

      • Lowcifur says:

        Someone being distracted by a shiny object on the side of the road could cause them to crash into me…should we make it mandatory to wear blinders while driving?

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        ok, ban booze, all of them. oh and staying up late, ban that because tired people can be in accidents, ban the radio, cell phones, passengers.

        You know what? ban cars.

        Banning these will not stop drunks from driving and it will not stop those drunk from getting that way via caffiene mixed with booze.

      • nova3930 says:

        DUI is already illegal.

        Banning substances to try and control actions makes exactly zero sense, especially when all it takes to replicate the effects of Loko is a can of RedBull and a bottle of cheap vodka….

  5. blinky says:

    Hysteria du jour.

  6. Skellbasher says:

    It’s much ado about nothing. People will still buy the stuff to make their own versions of these drinks if they really want them.

    Banning them just saves people from paying the premium of having it pre-mixed.

    • Julia789 says:

      The kiddos will just go back to mixing a few shots of vodka with a Red Bull energy drink, like they’ve been doing for years now.

  7. * says:

    Uh… Four Loko already announced that it’ll be pulling caffeine from its drinks to preempt a possible ban.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1719801120101117

    • Limewater says:

      I had absolutely no interest in trying Four Loko or any of the other alcoholic energy drinks. But, now that the FDA is thinking about banning them, I really want to try some while they’re still available.

      • thekevinmonster says:

        Don’t. They’re disgusting. If your idea of a fun time is drinking something disgusting, well, go ahead. “Hey, I heard I can get high if I sniff rotting human excrement!” Good luck! :)

        • Southern says:

          Personally, I like the (taste of the) Watermelon one. I didn’t drink it because I just don’t like alcohol in general, but I wanted to taste one to see what all the hoopla was about, and it wasn’t that bad (to me).

          As far as the 12% worth of alcohol goes, it’s no better or worse than the flavored Mad Dog 20/20′s out there.. It’s all just wine.

          Frankly I’d be fine with it if the government just went ahead and banned all alcohol, but we all know how THAT turned out last time. (It’s all about saving the children! We must stop the children from drinking! and driving! and getting into car wrecks because of drunk drivers! /sarcasm).

        • crunchberries says:

          I just tried the lemonade one and it’s not half bad; certainly no worse than the flavor of your average energy drink.

    • fortymegafonzies says:

      I’m not sure that the caffeine is even the problem here. The main thing is that these have up to 12% alcohol, couple that with the 16oz size, and you’re really drinking like four cans of beer worth of alchol from one can of this stuff — that makes it pretty easy to get a little carried away if you’re drinking it at the speed and quantity at which you’d normally drink beer.

      • tdogg241 says:

        But the caffeine also suppresses the effects of the alcohol, so you don’t realize how much alcohol you’re actually ingesting. I’m not in favor of the ban, but to claim that the caffeine isn’t a factor is pretty ridiculous.

      • Akuma X says:

        Four Lokos are in 23.5 oz cans, not 16oz.

  8. inelegy says:

    No, however, we need to ban lightweights who don’t know their limits and can’t handle the shit they do to themselves and then cry about it.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      The problem with lightweights who can’t handle their shit is that they often don’t cry about it, they do things that make other people cry about it.

      • inelegy says:

        That’s why banning lightweights is the answer.

        • OnePumpChump says:

          There should be a test, for a drinking license.

          Maybe it could be done at the DMV. Get your driving license, then your drinking license. In that order, never the reverse.

    • Michaela says:

      The issue with Four Loko isn’t as much about knowing your limit, but more about how it hits you so quickly. The high alcohol content just hits you so suddenly that you don’t realize you have gone over your limit until it is too late.

      Should it be banned? I am not sure (I understand that people should be able to drink what they want, but, as a college student, I have seen what can go wrong with this crap). Should there be warnings and increased awareness of what it does? Yes.

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        High alcohol content? It’s the same as some high gravity beers, the same or lower than most wines and lower in alcohol content than spirits. Even spirits diluted in red bull will have about the same alcohol content.

        So then you’re left trying to say they should come in 12 or 16 oz cans – but if idiots want to drink two of those, then you’re left in the same place.

        Personal responsibility. These are only supposed to be sold to people 21 and older. I don’t care if some teens poison themselves in Washington or Michigan. Go after the people that sold it to them.

        Has there been a single serious injury linked directly to an age-of-majority person drinking Four Loko? And not the action that person subsequently took? If not, then it shouldn’t be banned.

  9. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    Since close to NONE of the companies who have produced alcoholic beverages with caffeine have gained approval from the FDA, I think a ban is in order. Also, since caffeine breaks down more slowly in the presence of alcohol (as covered in a recent Gizmodo article), I generally think it’s a bad idea to combine the two in such amounts.

    However, I also believe that the drinking age should be reduced to 18.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Yes please. Then we can stop having stupid kids coming over the border every weekend and crowding the bars in Southern Canada D:

      • Lowcifur says:

        No way! That’s the only way we can get rid of those annoying urchins for a few hours every week.

      • RandomHookup says:

        And by “kids” I assume you mean “guys” since I’m sure young, drunken, foolish females would be quite welcome.

        • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

          Actually, I find both to be unattractive and annoying. Seriously.

    • Alvis says:

      That FDA does not need to approve alcoholic nor caffeinated drinks.

    • Nogard13 says:

      So, should we ban Rum and Cokes, too? What about Jack and Coke, is that to be banned as well?

      Basically, what the FDA is telling you is that you can mix it yourself but you can’t buy it already mixed.

      STOOOOOPID!

    • crunchberries says:

      You believe in the FDA’s ability to do its job? Really?

      …oh god, that’s just so precious. I want to pinch your cheeks and pat your head for that. You’re just so cute.

  10. jiarby says:

    I never understood mixing stimulants with depressants…. it can’t really be good for your body.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      It’s like what would happen if America went to war with the Swiss…

      Only inside your body!

  11. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I say we ban bans.

  12. jaroth says:

    I like how they say it is marketed towards children. Same reason Camel cigarettes lost Joe the Camel. I haven’t seen a Four Loko Lion or a Joose Jester dancing around on any commercials, billboards or whatever. It is sold to people over 21, if you’re under 21 and get it, don’t punish them. Punish the supplier.

  13. yellowwallpaper says:

    I think a printed warning might be appropriate – but not an outright ban.

  14. Sleepingbear says:

    Will this ban also make Irish Coffee illegal? Doesn’t the FDA have anything better to do?

  15. Sleepingbear says:

    Will this ban also make Irish Coffee illegal? Doesn’t the FDA have anything better to do?

  16. Sleepingbear says:

    Will this ban also make Irish Coffee illegal? Doesn’t the FDA have anything better to do?

  17. Preyfar says:

    Jaegerbombs. Rum and coke. Irish carbombs. There are any number of alcoholic drinks that mix A) caffeine B) energy or C) chugging. All of which are bad. But none of which are bad in moderation.

    This is one of those stupid times where a politician lobbies against something for popularity points. Rather than tackle the cause behind it, we just ban what appears to be the worst part of it. But if you can buy a Four Loko, you can buy Red Bull and vodka and mix the two on your own (and end up with a FAR more potent drink).

    So what’s the freakin’ problem?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Banning stuff makes us look like we’re doing good things for people. Protecting them even.

    • Preyfar says:

      Sub-note: I realize that much of what I wrote was covered in the original article, but I just don’t get how you can take two legal things, combine them, then suddenly… poof! ILLEGAL!

      I just find it weird. If they ban Four Loko, are they doing it across the board? If they do that, can I still get Red Bull mixers in a bar? If I make one at home, will I be breaking the law?

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      The last several Irish Carbombs I consumed had no caffeine in them. It’s Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey’s.

      Just sayin’.

      And it’s a proposed ban on drinks that come with caffeine pre-mixed. Last time I checked, the FDA did not regulate mixed drink recipes at bars.

      • Preyfar says:

        I meant dangerous by consumption on that. Meant to clarify. They’re stating X, Y and Z are bad, but only under specific circumstances. Jugging a beer and a shot of whiskey/baileys in under ten seconds is not good for you whatsoever.

        Add everything else in… it’s about moderation when it comes down to it.

  18. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I don’t think an outright ban is needed – but I would support a limit on excessive caffiene to an alcoholic drink.

    • tdogg241 says:

      Bingo. A Jack and Coke doesn’t have anywhere near the same caffeine content as these alcoholic energy drinks. A ban is excessive, but regulation is perfectly reasonable. Not that a ban on these drinks would matter to me. This swill is for amateur drinkers who don’t like the taste of alcohol.

      • njack says:

        But it’s just as easy to order a Red Bull and Vodka. Hey, maybe even mix vodka with a 5 hour Energy, I bet that isn’t illegal.

  19. dreamsneverend says:

    You cannot legislate intelligence nor should you make laws against stupidity. It’s a general waste of time, humans do stupid stuff!

    Personally the caloric content is more of a deterrent than the booze/caffeine factor and while I’ve had my own Four Loko bender as an experiement, I wouldn’t drink that crap all the time because it tastes like sugary butt…..Well after the first one I didn’t really care, but that’s not the point!

  20. The cake is a lie! says:

    There are a number of energy drinks that should be banned. The level of caffeine and other energy boosters in some of these drinks could give you a heart attack. AND, if they outlaw these drinks, then say good by to red bull mixing. It would make it illegal for bars to serve that.

    Is there seriously nothing else the FDA has to regulate? They should be working on getting pot legalized instead of trying to make everything else illegal and taking jobs away from US citizens.

  21. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    “Under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed “unsafe” and is unlawful unless that particular use has been approved by the FDA or the substance is generally recognized as safe. Caffeine has not been approved for use in alcoholic beverages and the FDA “is not aware of any basis that manufacturers have to conclude that the use of caffeine is generally recognized as safe,” Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in a news conference.” via http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/11/fda-questions-caffeine-in-alcoholic-beverages.html

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Double post. Apologies.

    • David in Brasil says:

      Then what about caffeine in orange juce, or extra-caffeinated coffee? Caffeinated gum and mints? The logical extension of this hoopla is for them to investigate and ban these products too…

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        Caffeine in orange juice? What the hell? If you want caffeine, do it like normal people. Grab a f-ing soda or coffee. OMG, what did people do before caffeinated orange juice?!?!?

        • Bladerunner says:

          They didn’t drink mountain dew, for starters (check your can…yep, it’s got OJ and caffeine).

          Caffeine is a substance generally recognized as safe. As is alcohol. Not EVERY recipe needs FDA approval (is sugar in eggs generally recognized as safe when in omelette form? Oh no banhammer!). The FDA is being idiots, and anyone who agrees with them is also being stupid, because they are advocating that somehow caffeine and alcohol are magical special things that we haven’t been using and mixing for thousands of years. I do think that perhaps the AMOUNT of caffeine needs to be regulated, but that’s true for any substance with possibility of danger. (Everclear has big ol’ warnings on it), but only if we really think they’re being dangerous…is anyone really making that argument now? I haven’t heard it. Only incidental social effects.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        Caffeine with sugar has GRAS status. Caffeine and alcohol do not. If you’re that hard up for caffeine, you can buy it straight.

  22. Pax says:

    It would also result in shops not being able to sell you an Irish Coffee.

    A warning label should be entirely sufficient. A full ban is … well, baby-with-the-bathwater, is what it is.

    Anf, FWIW? I don’t drink alcohol. Ever. And I still think this move is wrong.

  23. miball says:

    How many jobs will be lost due to this ban? The companies, the workers who place the drinks in the local stores? At a time like this I would think we would be doing what we can to preserve jobs, not put more people out of work.

    Personal Responsibility people!!

    Why were the under age people drinking these drinks NEVER CITED as MIPS?

  24. Macgyver says:

    And I quote:
    “Proponents of legislation against drinks like Four Loko say they are deliberately marketed to young and underage people.”
    I’m so tired of hearing people saying this thing is marketed to kids.
    Don’t you have to be 21 to buy it?
    If someone underage is buying it, who’s fault is that?
    That’s the dumb ass kids own fault for buying it, and the clerk who’s selling it.

  25. Straspey says:

    Absolutely not…

    In a free-market society, everybody should be free to produce, sell and consume products which facilitate irrational, unsocial and dangerous behavior – leading to acts of extreme danger and stupidity, which may result in physical harm or possibly death to other people, as well as the destruction of valuable personal property.

    The government has no business in regulating this area because it’s really the business of lawyers (and the provate health-insurance industry) to regulate this industry by means of multi-million-dollar lawsuits resulting from the horrible injuries or deaths that occur vis the activities of the people in our free society who make the informed decision to drink five cans of these beverages and then drive a car, light a barbecue, or put their silverware in the microwave oven.

  26. RxDude says:

    Does this affect beers made with coffee? I’ll be pissed if the FDA gets between me and Timberline Espresso Stout.

  27. Straspey says:

    Absolutely not…

    In a free-market society, everybody should be free to produce, sell and consume products which facilitate irrational, unsocial and dangerous behavior – leading to acts of extreme danger and stupidity, which may result in physical harm or possibly death to other people, as well as the destruction of valuable personal property.

    The government has no business in regulating this area because it’s really the business of lawyers (and the private health-insurance industry) to regulate this industry by means of multi-million-dollar lawsuits resulting from the horrible injuries or deaths that occur vis the activities of the people in our free society who make the informed decision to drink five cans of these beverages and then drive a car, light a barbecue, or put their silverware in the microwave oven.

  28. chiieddy says:

    I’m not sure the problem here is booze + caffeine as it is the alcoholic content of one can of 4Loco is equivalent to 1 entire bottle of wine. That’s about 4 – 5 glasses. So, drink 2 cans, and you’re in the 8 – 10 glass of wine drunk level. That’s way too high for something marketed as the equivalent of drinking Zima or beer.

    • NYGuy1976 says:

      They are meant for college students and if you have limited funds getting 4 or 5 drinks in 1 can is the whole point. Maybe kids think these are like beer and are drinking like they are and that is the problem, not the drink itself.

  29. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    I make my own Four Loko at home.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTqSs9TO9tI

  30. laughingisfree says:

    screw four loko, you just can’t beat rum and coke

  31. teke367 says:

    What’s next, the FDA going to ban cocaine and vodka shots?

  32. NYGuy1976 says:

    Red Bull is smart because they never market their drink for use with any liquor yet it is probably the most popular energy drink in bars.

  33. jimmyhl says:

    I tried a FourLoco at a party not long ago and immediately imposed my own personal ban after half a can. The bad taste brings you in and the headache brings you back. What a shiteous product. But the kids love it. I say let them have it. After all we already fucked up everything else in the world. It’s only decent to leave them something. Why not leave them Four Loco?

  34. outlulz says:

    If there are proven extensive health or safety risks, then maybe. But there should just be a ban on how much any one given pre-packaged container can have of alcohol and caffeine.

  35. MattyC says:

    So all this is saying, is that instead of getting my caffeine and alcohol in one can, I have to buy 2 separate cans to make this happen.

  36. ConsumerDollars says:

    What’s the difference between pouring a double shot of Vodka into large cup with 2 cans of Red Bull, and you know bars are going to sell it. Why try to stop what you can’t control.

  37. Clyde Barrow says:

    I am a big home-brew guy and earlier this summer I bought crème brûlée beer from a micro-brewery. Little did I know that this type of brew had a lot of caffeine because of the chocolate which was not labeled as such. It tasted great but even if I had one glass, I’d be up til 3 am if I had it with dinner. I did not particularly like the strange feeling in my head and body because I wanted to sleep, yet my head was zooming at a 100mph.

    However I think it should be decided by the ones who may drink it because it’s their choice. I don’t care for this caffeinated beer.

  38. ichiban1081 says:

    Don’t ban it just get them to make the can smaller. Everytime I hear about Four Loko has always been in the news and made me want to try it. It’s getting so much publicity that I think the FDA is doing more harm than good.

  39. Blind Cynicism says:

    Neither caffeine nor alcohol is a banned substance. If they make it illegal, they should make it illegal to serve rum and cokes, Red Bull/vodkas, etc at bars too. These a$$hats in congress and parents with too much time on their hands, end up focusing their efforts are $hit that adds little value to society as a whole. If people want to drink a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, then let them. If they die from it, let them (good riddance too). Instead, let’s educate people on the dangers and give people the freedom to do as they please (with legal substances).

  40. ericlewis91 says:

    dont see the point, if they get banned

    people will just mix alcohol and energy drinks at home…

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      Or at the bar…
      Reminds me of the time a guy next to me asked for a boilermaker. The bartender said they weren’t allowed to serve those. “Okay,” answered the customer, “I’ll take a beer and a shot please.” The bartender obliged.

  41. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Just implementing a ban on such short notice based on a handful of stories makes the FDA look like a joke. Shouldn’t there be some quantifiable scientific data upon which to justify a ban? Otherwise, this simply looks like a knee-jerk abuse of power.

  42. Aaron Anderson says:

    If you voted yes, you’re living in the wrong country. This is ridiculous.

  43. coren says:

    Here’s a thought: underage people can’t legally buy this shit. So if you’re marketing to them, it’s either wasting money or enforcement needs to be better, so as to prevent the sale to minors.

    They ran a story about a guy who picked up two 15 year olds, in part using four loko. And then vodka. And I’m wondering: how is 4 loko to blame if he’s giving underage girls vodka and they’re taking alcohol from a stranger?

  44. Shadowman615 says:

    Doesn’t really make a difference. People can still buy Vodka, Red Bull, and some kind of fruity liquer/mixer and make similar concoctions themselves. Just like they’ve been serving in bars since several years before these came out.

  45. AmPriS says:

    I placed my own ban on them for tasting like crap.

  46. Groanan says:

    Caffeine is safe unless you OD, which takes a lot unless you actually have pure caffeine.
    Alcohol is not only safe in moderation, but it is beneficial for your health, reducing your chances of strokes / heart disease / heart attacks.

    By moderation I mean 2 beers / 1 shot / probably 1 Four Loco a day.

    It could very well be that drinking a four loco every morning is healthier than just drinking coffee, and since it contains caffeine, it can become a substitute for the morning coffee.

    Except that it probably tastes pretty nasty, and that Bailey’s in Coffee is the way to go.

    • outlulz says:

      Four Loko is like 5 beers and a Monster.

      • Groanan says:

        Oh, I thought it was like two beers and three cups of coffee.

        Damn you Stephen COLBERT!!!!

        • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

          I really don’t know where people are pulling these numbers from. There is no labeled amount of caffeine.

          As far as the alcohol, just do the math. It’s ~24 oz @ 12% alcohol. An average beer is 12 oz @ 4%-5% alcohol. So a Four Loko is equivalent to 2 beers in size, and 2-3 beers in strength, making it about the same as 4-5 beers.

          Everything I’ve read from people’s guesses are that it is equal to 4-5 beers and a cup of coffee.

  47. yungjerry703 says:

    This really blows for the craft brew scene. many beers are made with coffee. not for the caffeine but for the flavor. banning caffeine and alcohol in the same drink will make these beers illegal.

    • Groanan says:

      There is a specific exception in the proposed banning for drinks that have caffeine as a byproduct of their flavor additive being coffee.