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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How is this Legal?

The product is called Four Loko, a 12% sugar and alcohol solution laced with caffeine that arrives in a 23.5-ounce can and retails for $2.50. The genius is that it's stronger than a barleywine and has caffeine! And it's cheap! And it, oh, ooops, it does have this downside:
An investigation has determined that Four Loko, a high-alcohol caffeinated drink, sickened Central Washington University students at an off-campus party this month, resulting in nine hospitalizations. Partygoers had blood-alcohol levels that ranged from 0.12 percent to 0.35 percent after consuming Four Loko, university President James L. Gaudino said Monday. A message left with Phusion Projects of Chicago, which makes the drink, was not returned. Last month, 23 students were hospitalized at Ramapo College in New Jersey after drinking Four Loko.
But, I mean, how could Four Loko have known that kids would drink this stuff? Not Phusion Projects, the makers Four Loko:
No one is more upset than we are when our products are abused or consumed illegally by underage drinkers – and it appears that both happened in this instance. This is unacceptable.
In what is one of the most cynical press releases I have ever seen, Phusion argues:
People have safely enjoyed mixing alcohol and caffeine products for years in their homes, and in restaurants and bars. Having coffee after a meal with wine, or consuming rum and cola, an Irish coffee or a Red Bull and vodka are all popular practices. Our products contain less alcohol than an average rum and cola, less alcohol and caffeine than an average Red Bull and vodka, and is comparable to having coffee after a meal with a couple glasses of wine.
Obviously, unless your "couple glasses of wine" are 12 ounces, it's not comparable at all. It's like drinking a bottle of wine. But it's not actually Phusion's fault. They might well have said, "hey, you're the idiots who allow us to peddle this legally to college students, what'd you expect?" And they'd be right.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

How is it legal? Because alcohol and caffeine are both legal. Would you be jumping all over this with the same voracity if it were in fact a barleywine brewed with organically grown coffee beans added to the secondary, achieving the same abv/caffeine dose?

Kids are going to drink underage. If four loko gets either outright banned or just browbeaten off the market (as sparks was before it), the same kids will probably buy alcohol through the same channels, it will just be a different brand. Those of them who enjoy caffeine with their alcohol will pick up a non-alcoholic energy drink at 7-11 and mix.

Your argument reminds me of the rabid anti-smoking activists who insist that anything but a plain white package with a picture of a diseased lung in the center is marketing to teenagers.


Selling alcoholic beverages to minors is already illegal. Banning beverages like this won't stop or even reduce underage drinking, nor will it keep college kids from getting wasted and passing out at parties. What it will do is curtail the ability of adults to buy a drink that contains two perfectly legal substances together, and there's no need for that.

Harry said...

My initial thoughts on this story were: college students love to indulge. I went to parties where everyone's BAC was over 0.10 and many's were probably over 0.20 and nobody was drinking Four Loko. Liquor does the exact same thing, this just puts multiple servings into what people treat as a single serving container (similar to oversized Monster energy drinks).

Anonymous said...

I was going to come post to disagree with you, but I don't think I could phrase it any better than the first commenter.

I will add that we frequently made a five gallon batch of jungle juice at our college parties. Our recipe was a concoction of juice concentrate, Sprite and everclear, and came to about 22% abv by our calculations. Makes 4loko seem tame by comparison.

DA Beers said...

To them it's just more work to buy Redbull and Vodka and mix themselves. Really, do you expect anything less from the generation that had premixed peanut butter and jelly in a jar?

It sounds like the bigger problem with this stuff is the social competition to try to drink 4 in a night. I'm not sure if that is the underlying significance of the name Four Loko, if so I guess you could say it's irresponsible of them to promote that heavy of consumption.

I know the caffeine/alcohol mix is bad for you... but lets not go so far as to ban it, or like anon said, your coffee stouts may be next.

Patrick Emerson said...

You are a communist - I always suspected. Soylent Green for all!

Jeff Alworth said...

Interesting responses. The two sides reflect the classic libertarian/liberal approach to regulation. Here's my argument, which I know will be unconvincing to those with a libertarian bent. C'est la vie--or better, C'est démocratie.

The state has the right to regulate food and drugs. Many products are illegal or restricted in certain ways because the state wishes to affect public health or safety. One of the ways the state determines how a product affects public health or safety is to look at the context of its consumption. Sudafed was widely available until states (starting with Oregon) decided to restrict it to control the production of meth.

So what's the context of Four Loko? It is designed to appeal to kids and it is sold in places they frequent. Furthermore, there are many red flags about the product itself: a single can delivers the same alcohol as four 6% beers; there's a lot of caffeine, which serves to mask the alcohol effect; it's sweet and easy to consume quickly; it's cheap.

So, what we have is a very potent product marketed directly to young drinkers (who have the least experience with intoxication) that masks the feeling of intoxication. It is cheap and easy to consume, further encouraging both overconsumption and quick--and therefore dangerous--consumption. The consequences are evidenced in article I quoted.

Remedies could include a number of restrictions: limiting the container size; limiting the amount of alcohol, caffeine, or both; restricting sales to liquor stores; a large tax to make it more expensive.

My view is that, while kids will definitely get their hands on booze, we shouldn't allow very strong, dangerous beverages marketed directly to them in places they regularly shop. Getting these products off the shelves is a hardship to no one; leaving them on will. And ultimately, some deaths.

Velky Al said...

No-one here though seems to be questioning the biggest problem in this whole thing.

Treating adults like children - isn't it time to lower the legal age to 18?

kevin said...

Jeff, beware the slippery slope. Realistically, I have a hard time seeing how this product can be regulated in a way that doesn't also apply to heavy-weight craft beers.

Although... maybe if it forced craft brewery to put their barleywines and imperial stouts in 12oz and smaller bottles... I wouldn't actually mind that so much.

Anonymous said...

College kids drink alcohol past the point of intoxication - news at 11!

Brad said...

I'd like to deal with one of the assumptions you're making, Jeff, which is that Four Loko is "marketed directly to young drinkers." Is it? How so?

Is it just some general "feeling" one gets from looking at the packaging? Because it's colorful and irreverent-seeming? Couldn't Four Loko argue that plenty of adults 21 to, say, 25 or so are also interested in this kind of aesthetic? Seriously, if there's some direct evidence or leaked internal memo that betrays the company's plans to market explicitly to underage consumers, then of course we should be outraged. But absent that, it seems like we're working from vague, fuzzy impressions here, which in my view is insufficient to deprive a business of their ability to make and market a legal product.

AB-IB would tell you that, of course, their products are marketed to only adults 21 and up. And indeed you won't find any ads from them saying, "Hey teens! Drink Bud Light!" But is there anything inherent about a goofy, humorous Bud Light ad that appeals only to adults and not at all to younger people? No, certainly not. The ad will have appeal on both sides of the drinking age, similar to what I suspect would be charges directed at Four Loko that their branding is somehow too "appealing" to underage youths.

So let us allow even that Bud Light ads or Four Loko cans do create some peripheral demand for these products among the underage set. It's going to be unavoidable, to an extent. There's no magical formula for creating brand messages that only appeal to people 21 and a day or older, but not a soul 21 minus a day or younger. And if you're a company that's only interested in marketing to 20-somethings, then chances are decent your product is also going to look like it has some appeal to teens. And no, I don't think the answer is to deny companies the right to market alcoholic beverages to people aged 21-29.

You say it's readily available where young people frequent -- like corner stores? 7-11s near university campuses? Well, so are lots of other brands of alcohol; is the answer to eliminate all alcohol sales in all places where young people go? Few would advocate for that. To restrict only brands like Four Loko from being sold in such locations would be arbitrary and unfair. Who gets to make these decisions? How would such a selective enforcement technique stay ahead of new brands, with new packaging and new names? Do you create a review process for approving new brands up front, or do you play whack-a-mole with the products once they hit the market? Do you create special Four Loko-Free Zones around schools and day cares? Do you create new layers of alcohol categorization and regulation and impose further restrictions on the economic decisions of businesses and consumers? On and on. And after you do all that, you'll turn around and -- my god! -- find out that kids are still coming up with novel and effective ways of getting just as trashed as before.

Finally, briefly, issues regarding ingredients and container size:

As long as you can legally buy products equally, or more so, potent in alcohol or caffeine, and in greater quantities, as separate items, and as long as combining the two substances is not itself illegal (i.e. we're not dealing with amateur meth production here), then arbitrarily outlawing this specific formulation in that specific quantity is merely insulting the autonomy of adult consumers in a free society.

Brad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Alworth said...

Kevin, it would be fairly easy to construct a portfolio of laws that targeted this kind of beverage without touching beer. I don't have the data to offer a law here, but you could use the alcohol percentage, sugar content, and caffeine content to come up with a law.

We always hear the "slippery slope" argument raised as a talisman in these discussions, but rare is the case where ti actually applies.

Brad, as I acknowledged my argument was never going to persuade the libertarian minded like yourself. I will concur, though, that it's targeted to consumers in their twenties and younger. I'm an old man, and a 23-year old still qualifies as "young."

kevin said...

Jeff, is your memory so short that you don't recall the proposed rules to curb street drinking in downtown portland which also would have prevented the sales of craft beers?

Adam said...

Well Jeff, I'm with you on this one, at least to some degree. From the article:

"A 23.5-ounce can is comparable to drinking five to six beers."

Five to six. That's quite a bit for some, not so much for others. The real kicker is when you have that much caffeine in the drink, it masks the effects of the alcohol one would normally feel (to a certain extent). It's like playing with fire, but numbing your hand with an anesthetic first. You've taken away the consumer's ability to be able to figure out how much is within the limits of "responsible drinking" as the caffeine masks the effects of alcohol, but doesn't make them go away.

I don't know what the solutions are, but currently the FDA is looking into the safety of these types of drinks, and at least 18 State Attorney Generals have raised concerns about these products. I'd personally be in favor of some sort of restrictions placed on these types of beverages.

Anonymous said...

Looking for a way to address underage drinking? How about making underage drinking illegal? There are already existing laws that should be sufficient to address the behavior in question.

kevin said...

@Adam, I'm uncomfortable with your logic that adding caffeine makes it harder for people to effectively regulate their consumption. Because, let's be honest, *alcohol* also makes it harder for people to self-regulate. Responsible drinkers look at the ABV and decide if they can have one or two, or zero, and still safely get home. Irresponsible drinkers don't plan ahead, or at all. If you're depending on people's self-assessment of their level of intoxication, there's going to be problems.

(Also, other than the serving size, I don't see how you can label this drink as worse than a rum and coke. And I've know people who drank pint-sized, no ice, mixed drinks.)

Anonymous said...

Can we get rid of Southern Comfort while we are at it? That stuff is just plain wrong.

As a matter of fact, let's just outlaw all products that a middle-classed, white, college-educated, dog-owning, bicycle-riding, voting citizen doesn't FEEL like consuming. It might be an uproar at first, but the others will come around and see the omnipresent thinking of it all and will elect me to be president for life.

Let's Party! said...

Having tried Four Loko, I can definitely say that the stuff can jack you up pretty good. The flavor formulas are so that the alcohol is downplayed to the sweet fruitiness, so it's pretty simple to get inexperienced drinkers on board with this brand. Plus that caffeine kick can be a little fierce if you drink it at night and then try to go to sleep later! My friends who turned me onto it like it partially for the fact that they're pretty certain it's going to be outlawed soon and they want to get their 4Loko time in before that. The other part is that it's an easy way to get drunk, so anyone who isn't sure if this has more potential for abuse than other liquored drinks...
It does.

Jeff Alworth said...

Kevin, on the downtown thing, that had a really different problem. It was designed to disenfranchise a certain segment of the population. Big difference.

Thought experiment. If the state made these things a lot harder to get or made them illegal, what would happen? My argument is that it would curtail some of the most dangerous drunkenness among young people (say 15-25). Of course, this population is still going to find booze, but will they turn up with .35% BAC (.3 is generally the danger line for lethality) in the same numbers? Will the problems be fewer and less severe? I say yes, and for me, a non-libertarian, I say that's reason enough. I could also be persuaded by data suggesting these have no special impact.

What I'm not persuaded by is the argument of: "so what?--it's their right to go kill themselves." If you are persuaded by that, then I think we have an unresolvable philosophical difference.

I just want to highlight the different ways people can disagree about the issue.

kevin said...

Jeff,

Regarding the downtown thing, it certainly was designed to disenfranchise a certain population, but:

a) that's not the argument I heard any of the beer geeks making. They all objected that they might not be able to buy an imperial beer or a bomber downtown.

b) Anonymous points out that maybe you are making the same sort of judgements when you label this as something no right-thinking, responsible drinker would like to drink.


Let's Party says, "The flavor formulas are so that the alcohol is downplayed to the sweet fruitiness, so it's pretty simple to get inexperienced drinkers on board with this brand". But, exactly the same thing is going on with "girly drinks", tiki drinks, blender drinks, wine coolers, ciders, many mass-market wines, all the pre-packaged mixed drinks from Jack Daniel and Smirnoff and so on. The "problem", as it were, is that alcohol is an acquired taste, and maybe people would simply prefer to have the effects without having to bother acquiring the taste.

"will they turn up with .35% BAC (.3 is generally the danger line for lethality) in the same numbers? " I certainly can't say definitively, but I remember a case of multiple alcohol poisoning victims when I was in college that got national attention. But they did it the old-fashioned way: shots.

what we’re drinking said...

Can you feel the sincerity, concern, and care expressed in that press release by Phusion?

DA Beers said...

"TOf course, this population is still going to find booze, but will they turn up with .35% BAC."

Jeff, not to crap in your cereal, but .35%s turn up all the time, normally there isn't an easy target for the blame though, as usually it's spread across the realm of vodka, rum, tequila, and such. This time it's just convenient in a can with a name attached to it.

With this said, I believe Germany has a system where people are allowed to purchase beer at age 16 and distilled beverages at 18, giving them a few years to "test the waters". If you were advocating for this I might be more in favor. Either way, I believe if you're old enough to hold a gun for your country you should be able to hold a beer.

Adam said...

@Kevin - I'm sorry, but these comparisons to rum and coke don't fly, not at all.

A typical rum and coke contains ice, 1-1.5oz of 70 proof Rum and about 5-6 oz of coke. Coke has 34mg of caffeine per 12 oz can, which means your average rum and coke has about 18ish mg of caffeine in it total. Four Loko doesn't advertise anywhere its caffeine content, but if you look at similar products, you'll see an average of about 10.5-12mg of caffeine PER OUNCE. That would bring the total amount of caffeine to about 240-270mg per can, if it fell in this range. So this would be like having a rum or two and the caffeine content of 10-12 cokes.

Oh but wait, they also include taurine and guarana.

As far as responsible drinkers go,let's not forget the recent study that showed people are 4 times more likely to drive drunk after they've mixed caffeine drinks (red bull, monster etc...) with their booze. Why? Because it impairs their ability to feel the effects of alcohol which normally would be present and tell people "no, probably shouldn't drive like this".

So yes, this to me does seem like an unsafe product that could use some more regulations.

Jeff Alworth said...

Kevin, I think it's down to philosophical debate at this point.

Derek, to repeat my argument: "will they turn up with .35% BAC in the same numbers??" Nowhere do I argue naively that this is the sole cause of youthful drunkenness.

I feel like no one's making an effort to understand my basic point before disagreeing with it--and offering counter arguments to things I haven't said.

(A good reason to leave politics off the page--even when I don't mean to bring them in.)

Adam, nice comment--I agree.

ff14gil said...

That is not so cool! You could drink anything as long as you know your limit but these kind of abuse isn't tolerable! That should be banned!

Brad said...

Jeff, please reiterate your basic point that people are failing to understand. It seems to me that there are people who are taking issue with some pretty specific assertions and assumptions you're making, which is perfectly fair game in a discussion over specific issues.

Charlie said...

Jeff - would you be willing to specify how much of a reduction in young people getting drunk would be enough to justify outlawing these drinks?

I'd hope you at least have a threshold in mind and aren't prepared to restrict the choices of consenting adults based on some murky "for the children" argument.

If they're outlawed and nothing changes, would you be willing to admit you were wrong, and would you call for such drinks to be legal again?

DA Beers said...

Looking around I found this which I thought was interesting.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_alcopops

what we’re drinking said...

A couple more articles from today's New York Times on Four Loko:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/us/27drinkbox.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/us/27drink.html

Kay said...

I thought everyone knew there was a point in your first semester where you become "that girl" at a party and end up crying over a bill being sent to your parents for having your stomach pumped...

Jeff Alworth said...

Jeff, please reiterate your basic point that people are failing to understand.

Can do. First, I believe government can and should regulate food and alcohol for the safety and health of a population. Many people, quite respectably, are wary of this. I'd like to ask people who disagree with me to ask: is my disagreement with the philosophical point or the assumption or details of Jeff's proposal. Because, if you disagree philosophically but debate the fine points of my argument, we end up in a rabbit hole of no escape.

My proposal rests on the assumption that Four Loko and associated products WORSEN (not create) the problems associated with youthful partying. That is to say, if they were removed, we'd see fewer deaths and accidents.

To remedy this, I would suggest some of the following actions to be used singly on in combination:
1. Set a limit for alcohol percentage in any drink that also contains caffeine--8%, say.

2. Set a limit for the size of a container of caffeinated alcohol--say 12 ounces.

3. Putting a hefty tax on beverages with alcohol and caffeine to make them less appealing to younger drinkers.

4. Limit sales to liquor stores.

These would all reduce the use of beverages like Four Loko without affecting craft brewing except in the very small margins (imperial coffee stouts might have to be made with decaf coffee).

Adam said...

from the article WWD posted - it looks like these drinks in particular have 135mg of caffeine per can, so my estimates were a little large. still almost twice as much as 1 full 8oz can of Red Bull. Which is a lot of caffeine. Consider that coffee beans contain only 1-2.5% caffeine. It is a very powerful drug.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

So wouldn't outlawing alcohol all together be a simpler solution? It would reduce the problem you cite as well was many other problems associated with alcohol. Or, maybe we just put a large punitive tax on all alcohol to ensure responsible drinking? I believe it is the state's best interest as it will keep us all safer.

Let's not go after just caffeine, let's go after the alcohol which is the catalyst in this formula. Let's tax all alcohol beverages, say above 4% ABV, at a higher tax rate. This will keep alcohol legal so we don't have a repeat of the problems of prohibition and it will leave my Budweiser untouched and focus on the problems of high-ABV beverages.

See how this can get away from you in a hurry?

Adam said...

Putting restrictions on these specific types of beverages doesn't need to lead to more/other restrictions on other beverages (nor does it imply that it would). This line of thinking is known as the "slippery slope" logical fallacy.

Anonymous said...

Adam,

No it isn't. My proposed arbitrary restrictions are just as valid as Jeff's proposed arbitrary restrictions. I would even call it much more pragmatic resolution than his proposed solution. I'm proposing a much stricter restriction that would go much further to cure the ills that alcohol has caused our society, nothing more. No where in my argument did I say Jeff's restrictions would lead to other restrictions. This is called negotiation. Counterpoint.

Brad said...

I believe government can and should regulate food and alcohol for the safety and health of a population.

Me too. The question is, to what extent? So, we invariably have to examine the specifics of the situation to determine how much regulation we ought to tolerate.

I don’t view Anon’s suggestion as a “slippery slope” fallacy but rather him accepting Jeff’s implied invitation to view this debate as one framed in utilitarian terms. (Do the benefits of a proposed action exceed the costs of impinging on the behaviors and economic choices of individuals and businesses?)

A total or near-total form of alcohol prohibition would no doubt bring with it many benefits to society. However, many of us here would agree that the accompanying erosion of liberties -- an individual’s right to make his own decisions about alcohol consumption, and also a business’ right to market products consumers demand -- would not justify such a severe government action. We accept the risks, real and measurable, to be sure, associated with maintaining a legitimate, flourishing alcohol industry in this country.

With the Four Loko situation, Jeff’s argument asks us to apply this utilitarian analysis on a smaller scale. But where do you set the threshold of how big a positive outcome is needed to offset the negatives? I guess it depends on what values you ascribe to the two sides of the scale. (Be it noted, we don’t even know how big the impact will be on the “pro” side. We can much more easily predict the impact on the “con” side.)

So Jeff may be right in that one’s philosophy might determine whether you place more value on maintaining the autonomy of individuals and businesses in the face of real or perceived risks, or place greater value on the reduction or elimination of those risks in the face of an erosion of liberties. What I think is beyond dispute is that there are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue here, and that regarding other (even similar, if broader) questions we have shown an unambiguous willingness to accept risks because of an attraction to the liberties associated with those risks (put another way: an aversion to the loss of those liberties).

Jeff Alworth said...

Brad, agreed.

Anon, I'm placing you on the New School's Enemies List.

Adam said...

@ anon - (the one that responded to me last, hard to tell if it is one anon or many posting here!)

My slippery slope comment wasn't aimed at your suggestions, but rather at Kevin's initial statement specifically stating "slippery slope" as well as the last sentence you used "See how this can get away from you in a hurry?". To me, that last sentence seemed to imply that restrictions could escalate if Jeff's proposed restrictions went through (a slippery slope).

Many states have laws on the books that differentiate between hard liquor, wine, and beer. I don't see a need to apply the same laws to each, do you?

Anonymous said...

The long argument:

I usually refrain from making arguments in long form, simply because most people get bored after reading 6 sentences. But since the nuance of my argument is lost, I shall revert to the long form.

My warning to Jeff is to simply say that he is opening the door to all negotiations regarding alcohol. The proposal below by Jeff has not come from a legislative committee or any law-making entity, simple Jeff's gut feeling on what he would prefer to see enacted. Any other person is welcome to inject their feelings on what should be enacted.

Jeff proposed the following:


1) Set a limit for alcohol percentage in any drink that also contains caffeine--8%, say.

2) Set a limit for the size of a container of caffeinated alcohol--say 12 ounces.

3) Putting a hefty tax on beverages with alcohol and caffeine to make them less appealing to younger drinkers.

4) Limit sales to liquor stores.


Let's start off with some basic facts, Caffeine and Malt-based beverages are legal in the state of Oregon. Unless am I mistaken, no single alcoholic beverage has ever been produced under license of the state of Oregon (not to exceed 14% ABV) has ever been held to be illegal in the state of Oregon in regards to its contents. The state and/or federal legislature has the power to make forbid any act it finds to be morally destructive.

For brevity sake, I'll combine #1 and #2 above. There is nothing to prevent anyone from combining alcohol with caffeine. Unless you outlaw the combination of the two for any purpose and plan to put an enforcement panel together at bars to ensure the maximum mg/oz of caffeine is not exceeded, you are blowing hot air. It'll take all of 3 seconds for someone to figure out how to combine a 20oz Steele Reserve High Gravity with ground-up 5-hour energy. Do you really think enacting #1 and #2 will prevent the combination or Caffeine and Alcohol in any relevant manner? I'm sure Red Bull would rejoice at #1 and #2.

I am of the opinion that you cannot prevent the combination of Caffeine and malt-based beverages by any reasonable amount unless you make one or the other illegal, or as Jeff suggested, tax them to the nines in #3. Now, personally I'm not a fan of using taxes to disincentive people from doing things. By that logical extension we could consider our progressive tax structure as a disincentive to work. But I digress. If keeping the two legal items separate is virtually impossible to enforce in any meaningful way and we don't want to make either illegal, who do we tax? Caffeine makers? Alcohol makers? I can guess who the target would be in this game, the alcohol makers. Take the alcohol out of the picture with the drinks and what do you have...nothing.

As for #4, I fail to see how it does anything. Yes I understand the limited number of alcohol outlets versus corner markets. But it just isn't work discussing. Next someone will suggest we should make it illegal to sell energy drinks at liquor stores. And keep them kids from playing pool in a place that serves alcohol, it leads to alcoholism.

By opening up this line of negotiation on restricting certain malt beverages that already meet that state's standard you stand to lose more than you win if you open the book for rewriting. To me this is one of those freedom of speech thingamajigs. I disagree with what you have say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. Or as some of them progressives like to say, solidarity.

Anonymous said...

The long argument:

I usually refrain from making arguments in long form, simply because most people get bored after reading 6 sentences. But since the nuance of my argument is lost, I shall revert to the long form.

My warning to Jeff is to simply say that he is opening the door to all negotiations regarding alcohol. The proposal below by Jeff has not come from a legislative committee or any law-making entity, simple Jeff's gut feeling on what he would prefer to see enacted. Any other person is welcome to inject their feelings on what should be enacted.

Jeff proposed the following:


1) Set a limit for alcohol percentage in any drink that also contains caffeine--8%, say.

2) Set a limit for the size of a container of caffeinated alcohol--say 12 ounces.

3) Putting a hefty tax on beverages with alcohol and caffeine to make them less appealing to younger drinkers.

4) Limit sales to liquor stores.


Let's start off with some basic facts, Caffeine and Malt-based beverages are legal in the state of Oregon. Unless am I mistaken, no single alcoholic beverage has ever been produced under license of the state of Oregon (not to exceed 14% ABV) has ever been held to be illegal in the state of Oregon in regards to its contents. The state and/or federal legislature has the power to make forbid any act it finds to be morally destructive.

For brevity sake, I'll combine #1 and #2 above. There is nothing to prevent anyone from combining alcohol with caffeine. Unless you outlaw the combination of the two for any purpose and plan to put an enforcement panel together at bars to ensure the maximum mg/oz of caffeine is not exceeded, you are blowing hot air. It'll take all of 3 seconds for someone to figure out how to combine a 20oz Steele Reserve High Gravity with ground-up 5-hour energy. Do you really think enacting #1 and #2 will prevent the combination or Caffeine and Alcohol in any relevant manner? I'm sure Red Bull would rejoice at #1 and #2.

I am of the opinion that you cannot prevent the combination of Caffeine and malt-based beverages by any reasonable amount unless you make one or the other illegal, or as Jeff suggested, tax them to the nines in #3. Now, personally I'm not a fan of using taxes to disincentive people from doing things. By that logical extension we could consider our progressive tax structure as a disincentive to work. But I digress. If keeping the two legal items separate is virtually impossible to enforce in any meaningful way and we don't want to make either illegal, who do we tax? Caffeine makers? Alcohol makers? I can guess who the target would be in this game, the alcohol makers. Take the alcohol out of the picture with the drinks and what do you have...nothing.

(continued)

Adam said...

"I am of the opinion that you cannot prevent the combination of Caffeine and malt-based beverages by any reasonable amount unless you make one or the other illegal, or as Jeff suggested, tax them to the nines in #3."

Well, yes and no. There are plenty of dangerous things out there one can make in their home using common items, but which we don't sell to the general public in their complete form. Restricting (not eliminating) the distribution and consumption of these products would help prevent some of the "blackout in a can" experiences these kids are having.

"My warning to Jeff is to simply say that he is opening the door to all negotiations regarding alcohol."

Is this door currently sealed under lock-and-key? I really don't see how talking about a very small and specific section of alcoholic beverages suddenly opens the flood gates on new legislation for all alcoholic beverages.

I live in WA, so I definitely don't have a grasp on your legislature or voting public there. Do they act like the townspeople in South Park, consistantly taking everything to a crazy extreme? If so, then certainly there might be cause for concern, and you might have a much better handle on the political climate there than I do. I very highly doubt anything like that would happen here in WA, and would support reasonable legislation restricting the distribution of these specific beverages, here in this state.

Anonymous said...

Adam said, "A typical rum and coke contains ice, 1-1.5oz of 70 proof Rum and about 5-6 oz of coke. "

Not at the bars I go to. If the drink is less than 1/3 rum you're making it wrong. It's usually close to 50:50.

Anonymous said...

"Do they act like the townspeople in South Park, consistantly taking everything to a crazy extreme?"

I don't watch South Park, so I miss your cultural reference, but I understand the ad hominem in principle.

ORS 471.001.6a, 471.001.6b, 471.403.2, 471.506.1b, and 471.506.3b:

Change 14% to 8%. Done. That should give Jeff most of what he wants.

Adam said...

@ anon

it wasn't an ad hominem. I was being serious (though also trying to be a bit funny) about your legislature. If you really feel like they would suddenly start putting restrictions on every kind of booze out there simply because they want to restrict one type of dangerous beverage, than you might be correct in your concern.

However, I really don't see the reasoning there, and would still absolutely support further restrictions on these products here in WA. It just really seems like unnecessary fear to me. But again, I'm not as familiar with OR politics or the voting public as you apparently are.

As for the rum and coke - thanks for the correction, but that means even less caffeine, so my point really still stand on that. Rum/whiskey/SoCo and coke aren't a fair comparison at all.

what we’re drinking said...

Anonymous cries ad hominem? Awesome!

Adam said...

Looks like it's no longer legal here in WA.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/107054863.html

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