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Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks Banned in Washington State Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks Banned in Washington State

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Congress / health

Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks Banned in Washington State

photo of Ben Terris
November 11, 2010

Getting a simultaneous coffee and alcohol buzz just got a little bit harder in the Pacific Northwest. Following in the footsteps of Michigan, Washington has become the second state to ban the sale of boozy drinks laced with caffeine, the most famous of which is Four Loko.

The New York Times reported that the Washington State Liquor Control Board is banning the distribution and sale of these drinks starting on November 18.

These drinks achieved public notoriety last month after six students at Ramapo College in New Jersey and nine students at Central Washington University ended up in hospitals with alcohol poisoning after consuming Four Loko. The danger apparently lies in the fact that the caffeine equivalent of nearly three cups of coffee masks the effects of the alcohol (of which there is about two beers' worth per can), and drinkers have a hard time knowing when they’ve had too many.

 

That's part of the appeal, for it allows consumers to feel both inebriated and alert at the same time.

Washington and Michigan are not the only states taking issue with the drink. Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote a letter to his state’s liquor board requesting a ban on the drink.

In his letter, Schumer wrote that the drinks are particularly dangerous because they target a young audience.

“One study found that young drinkers who combine alcohol with caffeine are at increased risk of harm,” he wrote. “Specifically, the study found that younger drinkers are twice as likely to be the victim of sexual assault, ride with a drunk driver, and be hurt or injured as a result of their drinking enough to seek medical attention. These findings are alarming, particularly given the skyrocketing popularity of caffeinated alcoholic beverages and the fact that the beverage manufacturers seem to be actively marketing to young and possibly underage drinkers.”

This is not the first time that caffeinated alcoholic beverages have come under attack. In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., sued MillersCoors, saying the company's Sparks drink was a health hazard. Three months later Sparks dropped caffeine from its recipe.

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