Four Loko Is Not to Blame for Teens' Binge Drinking, We Are

four lokoCan we really blame the makers of fruity-flavored malt beverage Four Loko for teens using it irresponsibly? Last time I checked, teens had a tendency to use everything irresponsibly, no matter what its original purpose. What other boneheaded creatures would come up with such genius ideas as sniffing glue and huffing nitrous out of a whipped cream can? To me, it's one of the scariest things about being a parent ... knowing that the teenage years are ahead, and the many horrible judgment calls that go along with them.

Back in November, the FTC and the FDA pressured Phusion, the makers of Four Loko, to remove the high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants from their very alcoholic drinks, arguing that the caffeine could "mask the sense of intoxication" and cause teens to drink even more. (This was after several teen deaths were linked to possible Four Loko consumption.)


Phusion complied immediately, even though they denied the accusations. But now the FTC is targeting another supposedly teen-endangering aspect of the drink.

This week it was announced that Four Loko's labels would be altered to "better inform consumers" of its high alcohol content. See, one 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko is the alcoholic equivalent of 4 or 5 beers, something the FTC seems to think teens don't realize.

Au contraire, FTC. Not only do teens realize it, that's exactly why they drink it in the first place!

I'm not defending Four Loko as a product. Sounds like a nightmare hangover in a can to me. But what concerns me is that the powers-that-be appear to have such a misunderstanding of teen logic (or lack thereof). Long before Four Loko came on to the scene, kids figured out that mixing Red Bull and vodka would get you totally wasted without making you pass out (and dude, you can barely even taste the vodka!). In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that particular cocktail inspired the invention of Four Loko to begin with.

I just feel like as parents, we really need to focus on our kids and how they're equipped to respond to the world around them, rather than waste all our efforts trying to control that sometimes dangerous world.

Strangely enough, I happened to overhear a couple of teens talking about Four Loko on the train the other day. Swear to god, this is a word-for-word account:

"Yeah, I used to like that sh*t, but it's no fun anymore since they took out the caffeine," said one teen.

"I know man, right? I just went back to vodka and Red Bull," said his buddy.

Do you think teens were really "misled" by Four Loko's labels?


Image via Jo Amelia Finlay/Flickr

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