In Defense of Four Loko…


I rise today in defense of Four Loko flavored malt beverage.

Really.

To be clear, I think it is a mind-numbingly stupid concept for a product, and I never have, nor ever will actually drink any of the stuff. Don’t buy it, if you value your reputation for class or maturity.

But.

Via Allapundit at HotAir, I learned today that the Federal Government wants to ban the product, and all others like it. Malt energy drinks combine malt liquor with caffeine and other herbal stimulants, along with a hearty dose of sweet flavorings to hide the taste of the man ingredients. Drinking these things is like chasing your No-Doz with beer. This is a bad idea. Caffeine does not counter the effects of alcohol. It might keep you from passing out for one extra round, but that’s about it.
The President’s Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has encouraged the FDA to ban these products because they are designed to make it easier to binge drink, and I think that is certainly true. The only person who would actually ingest this crap would have to be an uneducated drinker who feels the need to get as stupidly hammered as possible, and doesn’t care about what is happening to his or her gastro-instestinal tract or their future reputation. A few people have poisoned themselves with these drinks. (But then people die from too much Sherry, too.) I won’t even go into what violence these drinks do to your taste buds.
In other words, this is one of those government actions that makes perfect sense…
…if you have the mind and depth of reasoning of a seven-year-old, as Gil Kerlowiske and the FDA apparently do. (along with such states as Ohio and Washington)

The ban is stupid from a practical standpoint, and hideously damaging to our nation from a civics standpoint. So of course, our politicians are falling all over themselves to push it through!

First, these drinks are just combinations of other legal products. Allapundit asks, “Aren’t kids looking for a Four Loko buzz now just going to mix Jolt Cola and Jack, say? From what I hear about Loko’s taste, JC&J might actually be superior.” The answer is no, Allapundit. They’ll just mix cheap vodka and Red Bull, which is what they were doing before the Four Loko type of product came on the market, with the exact same results. This will do nothing to address binge drinking. Ergo, it’s stupid.

Second, kabuki theater like this is much worse than a waste of time. It damages our faith in government when the proposed solution to a problem is utterly and completely ineffective. And worse, it damages our society by allowing us to pretend to ourselves that this kind of action will solve real problems. Banning a product is easy. Actually addressing this issue would be hard.
Mary Katherine Ham has started a Facebook event called Four Loko for Freedom! to call attention to this issue. An attendee named Jeremy Mis wrote this comment on the wall:

A comment from my local newspaper’s blog:

“This is great that they are banning this in NY.. Do you know how we get this banned in New Jersey? My daughter is 16 and her friends drink these at every party. I would like to have these banned before any of them end up in the hospital or worse. Please let me know who I can contact to get this started.
Worried mom of a teenager!!!!!”

Anyone see the real problem here????

Yes. The real problem here is the way we raise our children, and teach them about responsible alcohol consumption. (See this post for some thoughts on doing this.) But raising your kids is hard, and accepting responsibility for when it doesn’t go smoothly is even harder. So isn’t it much better to just let the government pretend it can do the job, and feel much better about yourself?

Update: Via Aaron Worthing’s lawyer-wonk post on this subject, a YouTube video that reminds us that Life Imitates Art.

Further update: Welcome, all you folks who got here via World of Beer or the Four Loko for Freedom Facebook page. Please look around while you are here. In addition to occasional bouts of booze politics ranting, I mostly write about the finer and sillier aspects of good cocktails.

More Update: Also, you can be sure that many legitimate, tasteful, not used for binge-drinking beverages will get hit by this too.

More linkage update: FrankJ of IMAO (winner of the Pegu Blog’s coveted Best Read While Drinking Award) cuts fairly close to the bone in his Johnathan Swiftian proposal.


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  1. Darcy O'Neil

    18 November

    Ahhh Doug, we’re similar but different, kind of like Canadian and American.

    Now, I’m all for banning this crap and anyone who’s bartended and served people Red Bull and Vodka knows why. But as a legal product it has a right to exist.

    Now, the real solution to the problem is to reduce the drinking age from 21 to at least 19. Ya, it actually does help because young people can drink in establishments (bars / restaurants) where there are people to keep an eye on over consumption. Consider it a “training” period, with adult guidance.

    Will it stop all the problems? Absolutely not, but introducing young people to alcohol, in a controlled environment can lessen the harm and binge drinking.

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  2. Brandon Swarthout

    18 November

    Anyone thinking of drinking a Four Loko needs to see this! The FACTS on the government conspiracy…This cartoon I made explains it all.

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  3. Doug

    18 November

    Darcy, I link above to my my comments on the Amethyst Initiative and lowering the drinking age. (next to last paragraph)

    I agree lowering the legal age (I’m for 18 myself) is an important step. We also need to stop stigmatizing parents who let their children drink responsibly at home as all sorts of ages.

    Oh, and Brandon… ha!

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  4. kim

    18 November

    I saw the a twitter comment about 4 Loko that seemed to nicely sum your position Doug. Something like:

    “At first I didn’t speak up when they banned 4 Loko, because I don’t drink 4 Loko…”

    I wonder if in future years this will all seem as silly as the Absinthe mania?

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  5. Doug

    18 November

    Kim,

    I didn’t want to get all “Slippery Slope” tropey with this post, but yes, this is exactly the final, most cogent point. You can seldom change anyone’s mind with the slippery slope argument these days, however. People who think things like this just refuse to look down the road…

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  6. Margie Schaer

    23 November

    Most definitely agree with what you may suggested. Your account has been most likely the perfect to recognize. I say to you, I almost always get irked while consumers explain topics that they clearly have no idea about. You managed to hit the nail directly on the top and so described out all the things with out complications. , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

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