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Editorial: Don’t ban Four Loko in N.H.

Education is appropriate response

Published: Friday, November 12, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02

On the front page of The New Hampshire today, you'll find an article on the caffeinated energy drink known as "Four Loko." It's likely not the first article you've read on the subject.

Media coverage converged on Four Loko and other alcoholic drinks in early October, when students at Ramapo College and Central Washington University were hospitalized following consumption of the beverages. In response, several colleges have banned the drinks outright from their campuses.

The ban hit the statehouses next. Utah, Michigan and Washington have already banned the sale of alcoholic energy drinks. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) got in on the action on Wednesday, urging his state to follow suit.

It's unfortunate that Mr. Schumer can't concentrate on more important topics; Four Loko should not be among a senator's top priorities. Schumer's involvement in the issue is similar to politicians bashing Facebook's privacy policy. It's good for some free PR. Try mounting a campaign against the Bush tax cuts, Mr. Schumer, or actually make progress against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Banning Four Loko at any level,  whether across campus or across the state, is a gross overreaction. First of all, of the millions of students enrolled in institutions of higher education, an incredibly small percentage has been hospitalized after consuming the beverage. Yes, a few have died. Unfortunately, college students die from alcohol poisoning every year. That would be happening without Four Loko.

Let's be clear. You can consume Four Loko responsibly. Taking a sip of the beverage doesn't immediately turn you into an animal. Yes, the combination of caffeine and alcohol poses a situation somewhat different than just drinking a traditional alcoholic beverage. But it's not as if no one thought to combine alcohol and caffeine. Ever heard of a Red Bull and Vodka or Irish coffee? Caffeine is legal. Alcohol is legal. How does legal plus legal equal illegal?

Banning products as a PR move is a slippery slope. Smoking will destroy far more lives this year than Four Loko will do in dozens, and even that is not outright banned. Nor should it be.

Don't take away individual rights. If you want to discourage something, educate us on its risks. It makes more sense to convince us to follow a practice than to force it upon us (particularly in this case, when it's not that hard to get across the state's border). Education is the way to go. We gladly published a guest op-ed on Tuesday from UNH Health Services, and we believe the media's coverage has made the risks obvious.

That's enough.

We hope such hysterics don't spread north to New Hampshire, but there are signs that it could. While it is currently not possible to buy Four Loko in New Hampshire, that is due to the fact that the product has not been reviewed by members of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, not because of an outright ban. However, Liquor Commissioner Joseph W. Mollica told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he personally does not want to see Four Loko sold in New Hampshire.

So much for "Live Free or Die."

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Tue Nov 30 2010 16:01
"While we cannot prevent underage drinking, we can take off such a blatantly irresponsible product such as Four Loko, which will continue to end up in the hands of minors."

So you're probably all for prohibition then? Making alcohol entirely illegal? Because by your logic that is what you are saying.

A bartender
Tue Nov 30 2010 00:58
How does legal plus legal equal illegal? Drinking and driving comes to mind, for starters. Besides, the people being hospitalized/killed for drinking this product cannot assumed to be over 21. They are immature college, or even high school, students who have not yet turned 21. We do not grant them the right to drink yet, and rightfully so, because, clearly they do not illustrate the good judgement necessary when engaging in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. While we cannot prevent underage drinking, we can take off such a blatantly irresponsible product such as Four Loko, which will continue to end up in the hands of minors.
Fri Nov 19 2010 16:26
Let people make their own individual choices. If someone wants to drink 6 cans of Four Loko and risk dying, let them. Banning the drink and taking it from everyone is not a just way to deal with the select few acting irresponsibly. Are we going to try prohibition all over again because drunk driving is still an issue?
Mon Nov 15 2010 21:30
Just returned from a trip to Philly and brought some Four Loko back with me. Drank some (2 cans) while watching the Pats beat the Steelers. I did get intoxicated and I did feel that it gave me a bit of an energy boost as did the Pats excellent performance. I did not however, die, freak out or blackout or try to do anything stupid like drive or climb onto a roof. I simply had fun joking around with friends and watching football.

The fact is that Four Loko is a beverage that contains 12% alcohol. It needs to be consumed with the same degree of responsibility that any potent alcohol should be consumed with. Mixing alcohol and caffeine doesn't miraculously turn a beverage into meth or arsenic. What will they try to ban next, Irish coffees or Jack and Coke?

The sad truth is that college kids will always find a way to push alcohol consumption to extremes which too often results in tragedy. Be it pounding Four Loko, Red Bull & Vodka, or simply funneling large quantities of beer. Young people will continue to die from drug and alcohol related incidents regardless of how many beverages or drugs we try to vilify and ban. Banning is clearly not the answer.

Sat Nov 13 2010 03:35
i hope next time the author of this article displays his or he name, because its very well written and not biased liked so many other articles i have seen in this paper...the tnh needs to publish more articles like this one!
Fri Nov 12 2010 14:50
Governments have made laws in the name of safety before (Cell phone, seatbelts, age of restriction on smoking and drinking). This is one of those times where Government must step in to keep people safe. Senators in fact should make laws like this a big deal because part of their job is that they are charged with creating laws to keep people safe. I think this drink should in fact be banned because people don't care enough to keep themselves safe.
Fri Nov 12 2010 11:08
I don't know too many people that study the contents of a bottle or can before they drink it. They should, but they don't. Maybe this should be the lesson. Also, do people actually understand how much alchohol that amount represents? Same with the caffeine. No one either knows how to read the labels or cares about them. It starts with personal responsibility, I agree. However, given that most people won't read the label and the drink is a wolf in sheeps clothing, should we perhaps argue for different classes of drinks or clearer labels? Just a thought, because the average American consumer is lazy, follows trends, and cares little about turning a can around and actually reading the contents--at least in people under thirty. So, read up, cuz that drink is powerful --deceptively strong, and that is my issue with it.
Fri Nov 12 2010 01:20
Fight the ban!

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