November 5th, 2010
08:48 AM ET

Michigan bans alcoholic energy drinks

Michigan has banned the sale of stimulant-laced alcoholic beverages.

[Update 3:30 p.m. November 8, 2010] Michigan's liquor police won't have any trouble getting Smirnoff Raw Tea off store shelves; the product from Smirnoff, whose slogan is "Be There," hasn't been there for a year.

Smirnoff parent Diageo said it took the product off the market for commercial reasons in 2009 and should not have been included in the Michigan Liquor Control Commission's ban last week of all alcohol-fueled energy drinks.

And besides, Diageo said, it never marketed Smirnoff Raw Tea as an energy drink, nor does it promote any of its products as having "energizing, stimulating or invigorating properties." Just the regular properties that alcoholic beverages have.

[Original post] Michigan's Liquor Control Commission has banned the sale of alcohol energy drinks such as Four Loko, the caffeine-enhanced brew that sickened nine Central Washington University students at a party last month.

The commission issued the ban Thursday and gave retailers 30 days to clear 55 named products from their shelves. Among the brand names are 808, Joose, Smirnoff Raw Tea and Max.

"The commission's concern for the health, safety and welfare of Michigan citizens and the fact that there is not enough research to validate that these products are safe for consumption has made me believe that until further research is done by the [Food and Drug Administration], they should no longer be on Michigan shelves," commission Chairwoman Nida Samona said in announcing the ban.

A typical can of alcohol energy drink is 24 ounces and has a 12 percent alcohol content, compared with a 12-ounce can of beer, which normally has an alcohol content of 4 percent to 5 percent, the commission said.

Four Loko maker Phusion Projects told the Chicago Tribune that its 23.5-ounce product contains about the same amount of caffeine as a Starbucks tall coffee.

The ban mentions other stimulants, including taurine, guarana, ginkgo biloba and ginseng.

Critics say that the stimulants keep drinkers from passing out, allowing individuals to drink to the point of poisoning themselves.

But Phusion Projects contends that people can easily mix caffeine into their alcoholic drinks themselves.

"People have safely combined caffeine and alcohol for years: rum and colas, Red Bull and vodkas and Irish coffees are standard fare in bars and restaurants everywhere," a company statement said.

Phusion Projects, based in Chicago, Illinois, noted that three of the liquor commission's five members took part in the vote and that only two of them voted for it. The company also complained it was not allowed to defend itself before the order was issued.

"The commission's precipitous and ill-conceived action, if allowed to stand, will adversely affect many businesses in Michigan, including ours, and will deprive the state of millions of dollars of tax revenue," Phusion Projects said.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board also recently proposed discouraging liquor distributors from handling alcohol-caffeine products.

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Filed under: Health • Michigan • U.S.
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. I am Real.

    Oh GetReal, how simple minded you sound.

    While I see your point on how this can be helpful, we have to look at the big picture. It's like kindergarden all over again. If you bring snacks to the class, you have to have enough for everyone. Similarly, if we ban one harmful thing, we have to ban them all. Alcohol, Cigarettes, all prescription drugs, etc. All these things can be harmful. HOWEVER, if consumed in moderation, you'll be fine. We can't ban tylenol because one stupid person took the whole bottle. There are worse things going on in our world that we should worry about. Perhaps our crashing economy? Call me crazy, but the tax revenue received on these products helps our dying state of Michigan.

    Sincerely, an educated college student, who consumes four loko, joose, sparks, and other caffeinated beverages, and is still living. 🙂

    November 5, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmm

      But a stupid person put cyanide poison in Tylenol and that is why you have tamper proof seals on tylenol, food, and over the counter medications. Interesting that you would choose Tylenol for an example.

      November 6, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. @omegaraiel (twitter)

    Another loss for freedom and a win for the nanny state. Prohibition only makes things worse.

    November 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmm

      Nice motto: Michigan the Mary Poppins State.

      November 6, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. dictionary

    Tough call. The bevs are coupled with some pretty heavy duty herbs. If the stuff proves to be deadly, a good old fashioned law suit can correct the problem, put the evidence on the table and force the company to reevaluate their wicked potions. Ginko can cause mental distress with the wrong person. I disagree to place an overwhelming, over lording judgment with the co. Coke was forced to stop putting cocaine in their beverage. Didn't seem to hurt them. The names and graphics on the cans are fun. Just change the interior.

    November 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. crystal

    I will stick to jose cuervo thank you,those drinks look dangerous enough,plus i know someone who had a heartattack from drinkin them,thats why i quit drinking energy drinks

    November 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gilbert

    At a girl Crystal, drink tequila, your liver will love it.

    November 5, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. i rock

    Alcohol is for the weak

    November 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dictionary

    Alcohol is akin to endings. The molecules and sugers are supper rotted and refined. Great food for mushrooms. Okay for people in a very moderate way or to kill pain in an emergency. Used improperly, it WILL kill you. Very slowly. Recovery is easy with lots of good food and lots of fresh water. Plus a few lessons in controling thoughts and breathing. I enjoy a good beer now and again, but don't care at all for the effects. Seen too many friends go down slowly or quickly by a car accident.

    November 6, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmm

      ever thought about non-alcoholic beer?

      November 6, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Amber

    The human brain does not have "alcohol receptors" for the simple reason that we are not meant to ingest it. That's why its consumption yeilds negative results. But on the other hand the human brain does have "cannabis receptors"...

    November 6, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. dictionary

    Naw, kind of a puritan. Don't drink decaf either, or eat 'flavored' foods. Beer is beer. It has alcohol in it. I used to like wines, but since not drinking for so long, wine tastes like straight liquor and I usually just feel nauseated right after. Not fun. Why bother.

    November 6, 2010 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. SaveRivers

    FourLOKO + Ice Cream = FloatLOKO

    November 6, 2010 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. travuis fisher

    Its obamas fault just another behind the scenes way to weaken the us economy to further his socialist agenda. Spend all you can of our tax money weaken big business with bans sell out to india and china give speeches from germany its all part of his evil plan to take out the usa

    November 6, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Shaq

    Is WhiteKong over-compensating for something? Yeaah!

    November 6, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. dictionary

    Regarding sending people to hell:
    Given that we are all somewhat, somehome connected, definately by association, anyway, but if just one of our souls gets stuck in a rock.... it would be like anchoring one toe into the ground. Eventually you'd get stuck while buried alive by cosmic dust very slowly to the point that you would forget you could ever walk in the first place... until the dust gets up around your face and begins to piece together the story of how it all happened in the first place.
    We all need for each other to be alive, and well, and happy. As opposites (soulmates – can NEVER coexist and remain the same), we help to clear and burn each others dung. Fling your bad thoughts as far back as you can. By the time it reaches your opposite, it'll be just what THEY need. The remainder drops as rain. We need to make a conscious effort to keep ourselves afloat and be okay about having to help lift our neighbor once and awhile. Be kind to your kids. Be protective for your kids. Say NO when something doesn't feel right.
    Not really on topic, but every thread contains something about judgments upon others. And it hurts me. Help to solve the problem!!!!!

    November 6, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. dictionary

    lastly... if you don't like the way a story goes, don't read the book. If any of the characters die, don't read the book because that character just might be you.
    If you are blessed with creative power, right, write and wright a better story. This is your chance.

    November 6, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kim

    Its called warning labels and do not sale to minors if they failed to do that, ban them. Ive had those drinks before they taste nasty and gave me a stomach ache before i finished the can i was gagging just not that good of a drink

    November 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
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