The recent New York ban on Four Loko, a drink that contain 12% alcohol and as much caffeine as three cups of coffee, reportedly has many c-store owners and parents in the state breathing a sigh of relief.
Four Loko, which is geared toward young adults, has been blamed for several deaths over the last several months, during which the brand was available in all but three states, the New York Times reported.
“The caffeine wakes you up, causing you to drink more,” State Sen. Jeff Klein said. “It can be lethal.”
The recently announced ban will go into effective on Dec. 10, after which distributers will be fined if they are caught selling the 23.5-ounce fruity drink unless they can prove it was ordered before the deadline.
The New York State Liquor Authority was behind the push to outlaw the beverage.
On a national level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been reviewing whether energy drinks that combine alcohol and caffeine are safe or legal, and is expected to take a stand on the drinks as soon as this Wednesday, according to law enforcement officials in several states, the New York Times reported.
Many expect the agency to begin by issuing warning letters to manufacturers that inform them the drinks were adulterated and, therefore, not safe.
Some state officials have criticized the F.D.A. for not completing its review sooner.
“To be very blunt, there’s just no excuse for the delay in applying standards that clearly should bar this kind of witch’s brew,” Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut told the New York Times. As the state’s attorney general, Blumenthal has led a campaign against the drinks.
The F.D.A. must decide whether adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages is “generally regarded as safe,” an agency designation that requires accepted scientific evidence.
Some studies reportedly show people get more intoxicated and engage in riskier behavior when they drink caffeine and alcohol together.
Dr. O’Brien told the New York Times that drinking both substances simultaneously had a stronger effect than drinking a cup of coffee and then a beer. “There’s a particular interaction that goes on in the brain when they are consumed simultaneously,” she said. “The addition of the caffeine impairs the ability of the drinker to tell when they’re drunk. What is the level at which it becomes dangerous? We don’t know that, and until we can figure it out, the answer is that no level is safe.”