Four cans of beer, two cups of coffee, one nasty hangover. Mix these ingredients together and you’ve got Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that sent nine Central Washington University freshmen to the hospital and ignited a debate in the United States on whether the drink should be banned.
Four Loko has been dubbed a “blackout in a can;” it was invented by university students, for university students. Prior to the investigation, the beverage was sold throughout most of the United States and Europe. Four Loko comes in eight fruity malt-liquor flavours and sells for about $3.50 a can; A fiscally responsible investment for young party-goers. It had not even made it past the Canadian border before a group of watchdog politicians from the state of Washington began calling for its demise. My apologies, Canucks, for you will never be able to experience the wonder that is purple-coloured vomit.
Experts argue that caffeine, a stimulant, offsets feelings of drowsiness caused by alcohol, a depressive. This combination keeps the person alert, allowing them to drink more than they perhaps normally would. Since the controversy began in October, Four Loko has been banned by dozens of universities and in six states. On Nov. 17, the United States Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the manufacturers of the beverage demanding they remove its caffeine content and the company agreed to comply. By mid-December, Four Loko will no longer exist anywhere in its caffeinated form.
But who is actually at fault here? The producers of Four Loko or those college students who chose to consume it illegally and in excess? Why isn’t anyone pointing fingers at them? It’s a typical freshman, typical politician scenario.
If you ask me (an American), it’s our entire messed drinking culture. I live in a magical land where soldiers can die for their country at age 18 but cannot drink a beer with dinner 8212; thanks a heap, Ronald Reagan. Our drinking age might technically be 21 but this has done nothing to curb binge drinking on college campuses. In reality, it has spurred more of it, as students are confined to cramped house parties where “social drinking” doesn’t exist.
I’ve been there myself; I attended my first year of university down south, where the purpose of drinking is to get drunk. There are beer bongs, keg stands and drinking games galore at these parties.
When I packed up my winter coat and moved to Montreal, I essentially became the Boo Radley of nightlife. I slowly emerged from the grimy basements of student housing and took to the streets, eagerly exploring the clubs and bars of the city. “Going out” takes on a whole new meaning in this province. It’s not just about “gettin’ slizzard”: it’s about dancing, meeting new people and having a genuinely good time with friends. While it might not always be wholesome fun, it’s certainly more entertaining than sitting on that couch at the Frat house (the one with mysterious stains on it) and gossiping with your roommate about how Sally Smith is a whore for wearing a miniskirt in November.
Perhaps if the United States were to once and for all reduce the drinking age to 18, our culture would gradually shift towards that of Quebec. If students were exposed to and educated about the effects of alcohol at a younger age, they might develop a glimmer of common sense by the time they leave home to begin university. And hey, President Obama8212;it would stimulate our miserable economy! Take a cue from this province and tax the hell out of it.
Whether or not Four Loko is banned across America, students will continue to find ways to get obliterated in the same fashion. Vodka Redbulls? Tilt? Bailey’s and coffee? JÃ¤gerbombs? There are plenty of other products on the market that produce the same effect. Over the weekend, while visiting my boyfriend in Vermont, I decided to try my first (and probably last) Four Loko. While I’m not particularly heartbroken that these drinks are being taken off the shelves (grape-flavored beer is not my favourite), I can’t help but feel embarrassed over how my country has reacted to this situation. It’s the students who need be held accountable, not the beverage manufacturers. So America, raise your final can of Four Loko and8212;in the words of Kanye West8212;”have a toast for the douchebags” who run this place.