Friday, March 31, 2023

MLCC’s opposition to ‘new’ Four Loko unwarranted

Everyone’s favorite, brightly colored, single-serve malt drinks are back — without caffeine or energy additives. Although now allowed to return to shelves, the drinks, including Four Loko, still are being criticized by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, or MLCC, for high alcohol content.

But this crusade against such beverages is not in regard to the drinks themselves.

A 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko has a 12 percent alcohol content. An average 25-ounce bottle of wine can have between 12.5 percent and 15 percent alcohol content.

Clearly, the issue at hand is not alcohol consumption, but perception.

Because of the drinks’ marketing and packaging, they are viewed differently than other alcohol. Although a bottle of wine is similar in alcohol content and size, it is associated with sophisticated social drinking, not out of control college students.

When the malt beverages previously contained caffeine, there were reports across the country of youths suffering injury, health issues or even death from overindulging on such drinks.

Because of such reports ­— not any independent research — the MLCC took it upon itself to ban the drinks outright.

This type of regulation never should have been in its power, but rather that of legislators and the Food and Drug Administration, both of which are designated to evaluate health concerns with food and beverages.

The MLCC should be focused on regulating the age of drinkers, not what they are drinking.
Now the drinks are back and don’t deserve their bad rap.

The main purpose of any alcoholic beverage is the same. Four Loko and Joose — despite ridiculous names — are the same. Phusion Projects LLC, maker of Four Loko, just took college students’ favorite drinks and combined them.

The practice of mixing energy drinks and alcohol was not invented recently. Red Bull and vodka still are mixed by probably hundreds of drinkers each weekend.

So, what’s the big deal?

Four Loko, and similar drinks, have become the poster children for the widespread epidemic of young people binge drinking.

It’s not a specific type of alcohol that makes people do stupid and potentially dangerous things.
If the MLCC is looking to limit what MLCC Chair Nida Samona calls “health, safety and welfare issue(s),” it needs to examine the drinking culture that fuels young people to drink the way they do and then decide its policies.

Banning caffeine-infused alcohol drinks does nothing to address underlying issues. Those who choose to get obscenely drunk by consuming Four Loko likely will do the same with any other alcoholic beverage. The problem lies in the peer pressure to drink and lacking knowledge of potential consequences.

Bans are an arbitrary, easy way out. Michigan legislators recently banned synthetic cannabis substitutes with little evidence of health or safety risk and an almost negligible impact.

Although the action appears to make a difference, it does not do anything to find long-term solutions for dangerous drinking culture.

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