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. Edward C,

    Ban. Ban. Ban. So sick of every single time someone abuses something, or it can be a danger if not used properly, the answer is to ban it. Guns; Ban! Corn syrup; Ban! Happy Meals; Ban! Living in America, it is hard to think of it now as the FREE Country we all like to think it is. What happened to making choices for ourselves? Those days are gone for sure! Simply pathetic!!!

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

      Agreed! I have blacked out from drinking cranberry vodka's – BAN! I have a cold but a meth addict likes the cough syrup – BAN! People be responsible – our society is getting pathetic.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike P.

    Products such as this should not be banned on account of four naive kids misusing it.

    Though a more clear warning label may be in order, the fact is that when used as intended ("Don't drink more than you can handle") this is not a dangerous product, period.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Len

    Ihave no experience with four loko but I do agree with the poster who states that banning something because a few abuse it is wrong. Cannabis prohibition is a pwrfect example. Gov't hypocrisy at it's best. Meanwhile you have legal substances that are a lot worse for you. It's all about the cash, and protecting their phoney_baloney jobs................Harumph, Harumph

    November 10, 2010 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. BBDavis

    They mixed them with vodka and possibly other illicit substances..... soooo why are they getting banned? I tried one, they taste gross but they are cheap and they get you drunk, perhaps the result of a bigger issue that we should be focusing a lot more on, why no on can afford a decent drink?

    November 10, 2010 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Old School

    Same as in years past - Brass Monkey in the 80's, Cisco in DC in the 90's ... sugary alcohol young drinkers hit hard then fall down. If any of you remember it was the same story back then – all kinds of rumors about 'additives' that made drinks more potent. Tha additive that makes it dangerous is the sweetner, you don't here about too many college parties where kids are passing out chugging single malt Scotch or Bourbon. If it tastes like candy they'll knock that garbage back!

    November 10, 2010 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Flagguy

      Almost, but not quite. This one has the sweetener, which as you state is what makes these drinks popular with the kiddies. That makes it bad, but the addition of stimulants makes this stuff worse. Alcohol is a depressant. That doesn't mean it depresses you (although beer seems to have that effect on many), it means it slows your body down, relaxes you and eventually will knock you out. Think Valium or Xanax. Caffeine along with the many other stimulants in these drinks 'speeds' your body back up, making the effects of the alcohol less noticeable and, which the article clearly states, reduces the body's ability to tell you to stop – passing out, vomiting etc. Think mixing Valium with Adderall – bad idea.

      Oh and for the "oh it's the same as mixing (insert booze of choice here) with gatorade!" comments, gatorade is just supposed to speed up how fast the alcohol hits you. It contains no stimulants so it's hardly the same thing. I don't know if gatorade does this, just saying it's not the same thing even if it does.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. BBDavis

    I have to say I have always wondered WHY alcoholic drinks get away with not having a ingredient label. Maybe they could take care of that first so consumers can say they knew exactly what was IN the drink they were drinking!

    November 10, 2010 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Roger Cannon

      My 'Four Loko' cans all have the ingredients on the can. In English, so some of us can read it. You should have someone who can read to explain this to you.

      November 10, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. leo

    I love how college presidents try to be societies Mommy/Daddys...if the students were old enough to purchase the alcohol, then they are old enough to consume it. If not then the students should be arrested/fined/etc.
    Binge drinking isn't new..esp at college.. I love how the college president is trying to ban one type of alcohol but not others.
    Like the one guy on here wrote: hell one could get sh** faced drinking wine as well..why ban a product because someone abuses it?

    November 10, 2010 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bubba

    I say let them drink it...and if they croak, who cares, its just culling the herd of weak ones.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. bip

    they should also ban beer and hard liquor. These are known as 'blackout in a can' and 'blackout in a bottle' respectively.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. Terry - Indiana

    Boy, it did not take long for Red Bull and Vodka to fall off the chosen list. Next, I expect you will find these college kids drinking Vodka and Honey. All they want is something sweet that knocks them out, or makes them higher than a kite.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Old School

      Vodka and honey? Already here! Okhotnichya – vodka and heather honey .. Hunters Vodka ... don't think the Four Loco crowd will go for it – too grizzly for the kids – but a flask in the cold is right on time!

      November 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeremy

    People make their own choices. It's not like these kids were 6 and they put Hannah Montana all over the labels. These were people who are considered legal adults, maybe not of the legal drinking age, but people who certainly were capable of saying "no" in the first place. It sounds like they were all aware that it is referred to as "blackout in a can", as well. It would be like any other adult ordering chicken wings that are referred to as "explosive burning diarrhea" and eating 2 dozen of them, and then not expect to get explosive burning diarrhea.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chiefsboss

    When are we going to stop letting them pass these assinine laws? We need to stop being sheep.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. James

    I thought underage drinking was already banned?

    November 10, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. P.R.

    I drank 6oz of Four Loko and I will never try it again. Very strong, yet I am a beer drinker n I like Tequila. But that drink is extremely potent. As mentioned b4, drink responsibly.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. oliver

    I work in D.C. and the preparation has already begun to ban this drink and others like it, and it should be banned, no question it is dangerous. It taste like crap and it is not a sipping drink-it is bought and consumed by idiots.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
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