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. Kim

    WOW! I am 43 years old and drink Red Bull and Jeager Drinks, not shots....I have never tried Four Loco, but all this chatter has my curiosity piqued....I am enjoying happy hour with friends tomorrow night and I may just have to see if I can find one of these!! Now, I am smart enough not to drink the Four Loco AND the Jeager and Red Bull! If it doesn't kill me I will post on Friday and let you know my take! 🙂

    November 10, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. ryan

    I hope they never ban this stuff, the viral videos and stories are priceless

    It is a drink, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage that has been well marketed. This is no different than playing Edward-40-Hands or banging down 6 shots before going out (something college student typically do and I have done in my day)

    You cannot legislate stupidity. This is no different than drinking too many beers, too many rum and cokes, too many wine coolers, or too many glasses of wine. The caffeine again, if you are drinking vodka and red-bull, really after a few, is no different. This is not a big deal, these college kids drank foolishly.

    You can go out and drink too much yet do it somewhat responsibly (eating before hand, not doing it till you vomit, going out with a group, drinking water as well, etc). These kids were just dumb and the drink becomes this scapegoat because God forbid we hold people accountable for their actions.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. Heathen

    Oops sorry posted in the wrong spot. Please excuse the repost...
    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 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. D

    Eating an entire bottle of aspirin or Tylenol will kill you – we ban that too. Eating an entire bottle of Vitamin A will cause nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and loss of muscular coordination. Guess we should take away those as well. Cough syrup? Too dangerous, it has to go. Someone might drink the entire bottle. Mouthwash with alcohol? Gone. Obviously we need to spend tax dollars on funding government programs to keep us safe from ourselves, because we can't be trusted with that responsibility as adults....

    What a joke. Whatever happened to personal responsibility for your actions? Anyone who's sat through 9th grade health class should KNOW what happens to someone when they drink that much. People have to take responsibility for themselves, it's not the government's job to be involved with things like this.

    November 10, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. SoS

    How is banning this drink going to change anything? Will banning this drink prevent minors from getting alcohol? No. Will banning this drink prevent people from mixing energy drinks with hard liquor? No. The worst day after I ever had was after mixing pomegranate Rock Star with Sailor Jerry rum. It tasted fabulous and I had a lot of them.

    The fact is, banning this drink will accomplish nothing and is just another example of the stupidity of the people in charge of this country.

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

    Sounds like they have been drinking Nancy Botwins "Leg Spreader".

    November 10, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. HF

    I use to drink 30 to 35 beers a night , and this new crap is evil, caffine and the amount of sugar adds to the danger way above alcohol. Sugar knocks the body way off, this why hard alcohol is bad for the body, beer has less sugar, and caffine in this large amount would further push the body that might have not had food or sleep to far. Not sure, that the drinks are a good idea, asking for to much for the body and mind to process, go get drunk, sleep off the hangover, sugar is way to much for the heart and nervous system to control in those volume, you might pay for it in some way, later on, hope you don't

    November 10, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      Unless you start drinking at noon, I would love to see you take a 30 rack to the face in a night so i can laugh in the sight of your failure.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bree

    How can you legally ban this? Alcohol is legal, and energy drinks are legal. Plenty of people already buy and mix these separately, so why is it fair to target this one company? If people start getting sick because they're eating pie made of bacon, lard, and cupcakes you can't ban that because all those ingredients are legal, it's because of stupidity those people are getting sick.

    Plus, why not just ban all alcohol? You can easily down a 5th of vodka and be way more messed up than a can of four loko.

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


    No, but seriously. I bet the people calling for this ban are the same people calling for "small government this! small government that!" If they are really this concerned with small government, then they should get their noses out of peoples recreational beverage choices and allow people the freedom to choose how inebriated they want to be and what from. Pursuit of happiness? Country of freedom?

    November 10, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mok


    November 10, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. jimboe

    Vodka / Redbull anyone?

    November 10, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. Christopher

    Is it me or is the government overly involved in our lives?

    November 10, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chey b

    I loco for 4 loco!!!!!!!!!

    November 10, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. concerned

    I'm surprised why no one's talking about why it's being discussed NOW all of a sudden. Four lokos have been in the black community for a while, but only when white students start drinking it and suffering adverse effects it becomes something that needs to be banned. Newflash: It's only on the table to be banned because white college students started drinking it.....if it had of stayed confined to the "hood" this article wouldn't even exist--smh

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

      Now that you mention it, it's obvious that the word "blackout" itself is CLEARLY racist! Strike it from the lexicon. From now please refer to the loss of conciousness as n "outage of color" aka "African-American-out".

      November 10, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. PK

    I say if someone is stupid enough to drink "blackout in a can" let them.

    November 10, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
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