November 10th, 2010
01:51 AM ET

Washington may ban 'blackout in a can'

The Washington State Liquor Control Board will vote Wednesday on whether to ban the sale of alcoholic energy drinks in the state after a drink that some call "blackout in a can" sickened nine college students.

Last month, nine Central Washington University students were hospitalized after an off-campus party.

The students said they got sick after drinking "Four Loko," a caffeinated malt liquor also known as "blackout in a can," according to a police investigation.

Investigators concluded that none of the students were drugged or given alcohol without their knowledge, according to a school statement.

The findings convinced university President James Gaudino to ban "alcohol energy drinks" from his campus.

"We need to make sure that we're sending a strong message to students about the dangers of alcohol energy drinks, and we need to know more about the way it affects health and behavior," Gaudino said.

The drinks are "a binge-drinkers dream because the caffeine and other stimulants allow a drinker to ingest larger volumes of alcohol without passing out," the chairman of the school's physical education department said.

"Being able to feel the effects of tiredness, loss of coordination and even passing out or vomiting are the body's defenses against consuming doses of alcohol that will kill you," professor Ken Briggs said last month. "Regardless, once the blood alcohol level reaches a certain level you can drop like a box of rocks."

Police found the underage students passed out and "very intoxicated" at a party attended by about 50 students in Roslyn, Washington, on October 9, the police report said.

Each students consumed "Four Loko," while some mixed the canned drinks with other alcohol, including vodka, the report said.

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has called for federal food regulators to ban the beverages.

"They're marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol, and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are," McKenna said. "They're packaged just like non-alcoholic drinks, but include a dangerous dose of malt liquor."

The maker of "Four Loko" - Phusion Projects of Chicago, Illinois - said the company is doing "all we can to ensure that our products are consumed safely and responsibly."

"The unacceptable incident at Central Washington University, which appears to have involved hard liquor, such as vodka and rum, beer, our products, and possibly illicit substances, is precisely why we go to great lengths to ensure our products are not sold to underage consumers and are not abused," a company statement said last month.

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. jeff

    Know when 2 say when. Please drink responsibly.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      If they were to drink wine the same way they drank these four lokos it would have been the same result. Would we be outlawing wine as well? No....just those older people are frightened by something they don't understand and now we'll lose what I consider to be a really good party drink

      November 10, 2010 at 3:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I drink these on occasion and don't really see what the big deal is, it sounds like these underage kids were chugging them and even adding more liqueur... that's what did it. If i chugged a bottle of vodka i'd probably get alcohol poisoning too. Oh look i ate 50 pounds of chocolate in one sitting and had to go to the hospital... damn lets ban chocolate too. Hell you can drink yourself to death with water if you're that stupid. These drinks have 10-12% alcohol by vol. and are 24oz. Normal beer is 4-5% alc by vol. and 12oz. One can of four loko is the same as 4 normal sized beers, obviously chugging a few of these is going to get you drunk pretty damn quick.

      November 10, 2010 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      None of their 'great lengths' are working, since underage kids still got ahold of their products, eh?
      "The unacceptable incident at Central Washington University, which appears to have involved hard liquor, such as vodka and rum, beer, our products, and possibly illicit substances, is precisely why we go to great lengths to ensure our products are not sold to underage consumers and are not abused," a company statement said last month.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
    • whatTHUH

      Nick, do us all a favor and go drink 2 cans of Four Loko by yourself, ok? Instead of responding about things you know nothing about, just go do that for me and see what happens. Just 2 cans, finish both of them, the whole thing. Then come back and post your opinions. I nearly died from 1 and a half cans of Four Loko. There is nothing comparable to the violent blackout and subsequent vomiting and seizures I went through after not even downing 2 whole cans. But since you're the logician, do me and the rest of us a favor and knock down those 2 cans so at least you can relate instead of spewing your opinions from a safe and uninformed distance.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • darkangelx

      How come they just dont push smoking pot – you cant get sick or OD or DIE from using it – period. Nah we will let the government step in and say this one drink is bad...nah prohibition works right?

      November 10, 2010 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Settles_Stuff

      Alright, I will settle it. I am going to pick up a couple of these drinks today and I will come back and post a few messages after I drink them. I bet it's going to be no big deal. I just won't do it at 7 AM.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @Nick

      Please, this story said everything you said, the kids were doing what alot of other drinkers do, they drink, mixed, added a efw things, being stupid...just like ALL drinkers, they were being STUPID

      November 10, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Anachronism

      whatTHUH – seriously, that kind of reaction from 1.5 cans of four loko? Each can is what, 4 drinks, which means you had a "violent blackout" from six drinks. Either there's something else in that can, or you really can't hold your booze.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Richie P

      This sounds like an article straight out of "The Onion." College students got "sick?" You mean drunk and hungover? That's what happens when you drink too much of any alchol.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Heathen

      These kids were not only drinking Four Lokos...They were drinking hard liquor AND mixing! To place complete blame on one part of the equation is Ludicrous! I've drank up to 3 of these drinks by myself with no adverse effects. When you factor in mixing with hard liquor and the fact they are inexperienced drinkers that are downing these things like they are koolaide THAT'S where you run into trouble.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • battleid

      Dear Goverments,

      Stop trying to legislate the stupid out of your populous. It IS impossible. Dumb people will do dumb things no matter what.

      I have tried all the flavors of Four Loko (all kinda nasty) and can attest that if they are consumed responsibly, they arent any more dangerous than any other alcoholic beverage. I think i even drank 3 in one setting, im not dead. Would I again? No, but only because i dont enjoy the drink, not because it made me sick. Ill stick with High Grav IPAs.

      To the individual "whatTHUH" that says 1.5 cans caused them violent blackouts and vomitting...it sounds like you should avoid alcohol as your body has a stronger reaction than others. Maybe you can drink, just shouldnt "down" multiple cans of a high alcohol beverage. Sip. Dont Guzzle.

      All in all this is in line with San Fran banning happy meals and other health police state legislated behavior.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      whattruth-

      then clearly you shouldn't be drinking alcohol or you weigh 100lbs.

      I live in a college town and go to college parties where party goers regularly drink 2 a night. I'm not a big guy. About 160...i can drink 2. I was drunk off my a** but i wasn't nearly going to die nor was i vomiting. Girls typically drink 1, thats all. I know my limits and its dumb the state has to get involved to hold the hands of others who don't.

      November 11, 2010 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Parentnotproud

      Unfortunately while staying at his father's house, my 16 year old son was hanging out with friends and drank 2 cans of Four Lokos. Luckily his friends panicked and brought him to the emergency room. I received the worst phone call of my life and rushed to a hospital to find my son unconscious and vomiting blood. If you want to brag about being able to handle this - go right ahead and hopefully your parents won't ever have to spend the night I did with my eyes glued on monitors while my son could have died. It is not only the amount of alcohol in this drink but the fact that the caffeine is so high that the alcohol normally would make you sleepy but the caffeine keeps you awake. The doctors said this is the worst stuff they have seen and it could easily kill someone. Not to mention the store that sold this to underage kids - what about that or the fact that my child could have died from something everyone is bragging about!!!! Bravo to all the bigshots who can handle this drink....and then again maybe one day your body won't.

      November 14, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • GrabTheBird

      It's your son's fault...don't blame the Four Loko can, blame the kid who decided to drink 2 cans while being 5 years underage.

      November 16, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    I'd like to represent the Libertarian view here and say that it comes down to personal choice. If you're of legal age, then these drinks should be accessible to you and you can choose to consume them at your own risk. I'd like to see some of the 'libertarians' in the tea party back me up on this one.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • lulwut?

      If you're libertarian, then there should be no legal drinking age as set by a government. Right? Drink whenever you think it is appropriate, right?

      November 10, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Um, no, that's not correct. Being a Libertarian has nothing to do with thinking minors should be legally protected in doing whatever they choose. Where did you conjure up such an idea?

      November 10, 2010 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • whatTHUH

      Hey Libertarian, you might want to actually drink Four Loko before making such comments. I have been a hard drinker for years – scotch, beer, wine, etc... but they put stuff in the Four Loko that makes it poisonous, I can vouch. Please refrain from supporting things you only assume are safe for the public health, and of which you yourself have no experience with.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      This libertarian theory would work if, and only if, the people were educated or even had just a smidgen of common sense. That's not the case in America today. The "dumbing down" of America is well under way. Don't confuse them with facts!!

      November 10, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • autom

      The people in the tea party are neocons, not libertarians. They're closer to Sarah Palin than they are Ron Paul.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • ben

      WhatTHUH,...so because you can 'vouch' that it makes you personally sick, it should be banned?....I've had it, actually 3 cans and I got drunk, yes....but I felt the same drunk id get off a mixed drink. Everyone knows their own limits, assuming the person is of age and mature. These individuals were NOT of age and obviously NOT mature. Banning it isn't a solution, its just a quick reaction to immature minors that shouldn't have been drinking in the first place.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • real

      Rob,

      lulwut? is right. Your view is not libertarian.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • DK

      WhatTHUH, I have to agree with Ben. I had one of these Sat walking to a football game. As did my friends. I've also seen my friend drink 2 of them while at my house for a football game. Everyone mentioned here is 27-29. I'm sorry you got sick off them, but remember it's almost 5 beers in a can. People should understand what they're doing. I've spent many a night in college throwing up, but now I know my limit. 1 four lokos is not it. We shouldn't ban it because some people got sick. There's also the possibility that it's something else in the drink that made you sick. So it'd be like banning cashews. Cause I mean.. they can kill some people, and in all fairness, aren't the healthiest thing for you...

      November 10, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Wheres the Beef.

      NEWS JUST IN--the government plans to ban all forms of stupidity for all its states. This includes wrestling bears, playing in traffic, putting paper clips in electrical outlets, and also eating dirt. Don't be dismayed though– for those of you who absolutely MUST be stupid, you can still skip school, watch Jerry Springer, burn the flag, and last, but not least–for you real lovers of stupid out there...... blog about headline news featured on CNN's weebsite.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimbob

      As a libertarian, I support eliminating the drinking age. It's the parents' job to monitor their chiildren's behavior, not the government. Studies have shown that children raised households which expose their children to responsible social drinking, as they do in Europe where there is no drinking age, are less likely to engage in irresponsible use of alcohol, such as binge drinking.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Lolwhat

      @Rob

      Don't associate libertarians with the tea party. They are nothing alike.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Don't confuse the Tea Party with Neocons there little Autom. They are not the same. The Tea Party is for fiscal conservatism and does not agree with any part of the welfare idea. Neocons actually agree with a limited welfare state.
      Neocons push for American democracy in foreign lands and use war as a way to reach that goal (see GW Bush).
      GW Bush was no Tea Party favorite. He was certainly a Neocon but far from being Tea Party. Don't get the two confused.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Umbra1980

      I agree – people should decide when to drink and what to drink themselfs. And take responsibility.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Mok

      If you're a politician, please exit the stage and F off

      November 10, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    Legalize pot, and you wont have this craziness!

    November 10, 2010 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Zach

      Amen!

      November 10, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Mok

      The potato chip industry better get ready for OT if the "munchies" ever get legalized...then it will be 'ban potato chips'
      OMFG BAN NEW LIFE
      /wrist

      November 10, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Veritas

    Oh, I think you'll still have it. You can never underestimate the stupidity of the average college student. However, I still think they should legalize pot.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. flamer

    Stimulants mixed with alcohol do not allow you to stay up and drink more while pushing past the effect of the alcohol. It actually makes the alcohol more effective at getting you intoxicated. It isn't anything new, coffee and liquor, red bull and Jager, and even vodka and gatorade are all different forms of the same theme. If you have ever used this set-up before you would know that you use these combinations to get drunk fast off of less alcohol. You still get sleepy, sick, and everything else as you normally would and the danger of alcohol poisoning IS increased, but not for the reasons that this article is describing.

    A couple of shots of liquor added to a cup of coffee is actually a good sleep aid in my case.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Uninformed Observer

      Since you seem to be "in the know" about this, you probably already knew that Gatorade isn't a stimulant, and has no caffeine in it.

      That is all. Glad I could help. Bye bye.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      To think of banning a mixture of legal beverages is insane. Kids will just mix energy drinks and malt liquor together themselves, just as it will still be legal for a bartender to do it. This will have no effect on the problem, and all this press about this mixture is probably just going to make more people want to try it. Even if they are not mixed, people can just put an energy drink in one hand and malt liquor in the other and alternate.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. wavydavy

    Perhaps rum and Coke should also be banned. Seriously, college students mix far worse things than this. I'm all for trying to keep stupid kids from harming themselves, but doing away with one drink is not the answer.

    November 10, 2010 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. med101

    Mixing alcohol which is a depressant with caffine which is a anti-depressant will play with the heart. This four loko contains much more stimulants than just caffeine. Think of a monstor energy drink mixed with twelve percent alcohol.

    November 10, 2010 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
    • AR15

      many people like myself drink that all the time, its called a jagerbomb

      November 10, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bill Brasky

    Let them pass out and have terrible things happen to them. Getting exactly what is coming to them.....Stay Sober, Stay in Control!

    November 10, 2010 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ace

    Its pointless if they ban it,all you've gotta do is grab couple can of energy drink like red bull and a bottle of liquor like vodka mix it and you've gotyour self another caffienated malt liquor energy drink maybe even worse!

    November 10, 2010 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. Hey buddy pour me a cab

    I blame Obama.

    November 10, 2010 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      These "I blame Obama" jokes on every story are getting really old....not funny anymore at all....and I'm one of the ones that blames Obama!

      November 10, 2010 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Well it is either him or Bush isn't it? If one isn't to blame then its the other.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • bubba

      Ii think obama jokes are funny. theyre' kinda like "your momma" jokes. if you don't like them, don't read them.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mok

      I dunno Brenda – I lmao
      Seriously though, I wonder how our new best socialist friend is today....
      /here they come

      November 10, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. ur wrong im rite!

    Obviouslyy these kids can't hangg..&nick i agree with u 100% these kidss obviously weren't just drinkingg four lokos, they were mixing their drinks..&obviosly not sippin', but chuggin..

    November 10, 2010 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nate

    Honestly, I agree with pretty much all the comments on this page. The government is blind as a bat, the kids are at fault, not the drink. If you sip a Four Loko over an hr, you're fine. Don't go chugging the stuff as well as anything else that is not meant to be chugged. I drink a Four Loko every once in a while because for $2.50, you can get pretty happy before hitting up the bars, going to a party, or whatnot. It's no more dangerous than anything else you'd be drinking.

    November 10, 2010 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Settles_Stuff

      Come back later on and I'll show you that chugging them is fine. I'll chug two around four and post some messages. I'll bet that it's no big deal.

      Media hype.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lawrence

    It's easier for a politician to get tough on flavored alcoholic drinks (consumed by minors) than it is to get tough on corporations who ship jobs overseas.

    November 10, 2010 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Arutha

      Exactly! People harp on about immigration killing jobs – fact is offshoring which is tax free for huge corporates is the true killer. The IT market is slowly being wiped out by Offshoring to Malaysia and India. I wonder how long it will be before people start complaining when complete Finance departments etc start becoming the next victim. Anways, government will rather stick to minor issues like this than address what really matters. Mostly because corporates have them in their pockets.

      November 10, 2010 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jimmy

    This will only be the drink of the party until the next one comes out. Back in the 90's they had Cisco (aka, liquid crack) You can't stop it. All you can do is educate them on it.

    November 10, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    They're banned in Michigan now because of this. Dumb kids and dumber politicians. All that will be left soon are big gulps. Welp, see ya later.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
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