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Friday, October 29, 2010

Concern Grows Over Four Loko Craze


Inexpensive Drink Packs Potent Punch, Experts Say

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Doctors are sounding alarms about a dangerous drink that’s becoming particularly popular among college students.

Experts said drinking one can of Four Loko is like drinking a six-pack of beer and one big energy drink.

It sells for $1.89 a bottle and that makes it especially appealing to young people.

“First of all, it’s cheap to get, so a lot of students can go out and get it for like, a couple of dollars in their pockets,” said University of Central Oklahoma student Dominic Jones.

"I'm always looking for something cheap, any bargain prices I could find," said UCO student Kathryn Buynak. "That's pretty cheap, so a lot of college students would go for that."

Jones said it also has an appealing taste, kind of like Gatorade, soda, punch or a fruit-flavored liquor.

It's been on the market in Oklahoma for about three months and has earned a following.

State leaders said they’re concerned about the contents of the container, sometimes called a “blackout in a bottle.”

"The caffeinated alcoholic beverages are definitely the concern and are at the top of our concern,” said John Maich of the Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission.

He said doctors currently don’t know how the combination of caffeine and alcohol can affect a person’s body.

He said the drink is so inexpensive because it's considered a malt beverage and is subject to a 10-cent tax. Distilled spirits or hard liquor can be taxed at $1.50. He said that if the state can change the alcohol tax loophole, Four Loko won't be available for the low price.

The federal Food and Drug Administration is starting an investigation into the combination, but results won’t be available until next summer or next fall. State leaders have asked the government to regulate such drinks until more information is available.

Jones said he would have mixed feelings if the government decided to pull Four Loko off the shelves.

“I’d be 40 percent upset and 60 percent glad,” he said.

He said he would be 60 percent glad because he recognizes the dangers, but he’ll also miss the way people have used it to celebrate.

“It’s a way to have fun, because college students, we study a lot and we need a break sometimes,” he said.