The alcoholic energy drink Four Loko was recently banned from Ramapo College’s campus after several of its students were hospitalized following consumption of the beverage. The drink is also believed to have caused dozens of student illnesses at a Central Washington University party. Seton Hall, however, has not seen any hospitalizations due to Four Loko consumption, although the drink is popular among students.
“Four Loko is definitely popular at Seton Hall because people participate in ‘Four Loko Thursday’ which is a night dedicated to drinking the beverage,” junior Kevin Maloney said.
One 24-ounce can of Four Loko is 12 percent alcohol by volume. The drink contains four ingredients, caffeine, taurine, guarana and alcohol, according to the Four Loko “Four Facts” website. The effects of drinking the beverage have been compared to drinking six light beers and nearly two cups of coffee.
Dr. Anne M. Hewitt, director of the Seton Center for Community Health, said the combination of caffeine and alcohol is clearly an appeal to a particular group. Hewitt holds a doctorate degree in health studies with a focus in community health and a masters degree in nutrition.
“They packaged it beautifully for young adults and gave it a child like flavor,” Hewitt said.
Four Loko is available in many flavors, such as lemonade, blue raspberry, watermelon, fruit punch and uva, a wild Brazilian berry. The cans feature bright colors, such as yellow for the lemonade flavor or blue for blue raspberry.
Phusion Products, Four Loko’s manufacturer, said the cans contain seven different warnings regarding the drink’s contents and the need for identification for purchase, according to the Four Loko website. The website also states the warnings are in a “font as large as the federal government will allow.”
Associate Director of Housing and Residence life, Jas Verem, also noted the beverage’s popularity and the controversy it is causing across campuses across the country.
“In the past few weeks there have been a number of reports of students with alcohol poisoning and of blacking out as a result of consuming this drink,” Verem said.
He continued to say there have been incidents of students consuming Four Loko in dorms on Seton Hall’s campus, but he could not release any further information.
According to Hewitt, there is a discrepancy between substance abuse and misuse, and the issue with Four Loko may be that of misuse.
“It is not the drink that is causing the problem,” junior Jackie Wood said. “It is people’s overindulgence.”
The combination of caffeine and alcohol is what seems to be drawing college-aged students to the drink.
“We’re (either) totally addicted or using something for another purpose,” Hewitt said. “Do we really need an energy drink, or a healthier lifestyle?”
Maloney said the beverage does not even taste that good, but students enjoy it because it gets them drunk and energized as opposed to drunk and tired.
“Four Loko may be dangerous and nicknamed ‘blackout in a can’ but so is all drinking when you binge drink,” Maloney said. “The problem with Four Loko occurs when people mix it with other alcoholic drinks or when they drink it in excess amounts which causes the blackout.”
College students, who are usually strapped for money, tend to consume Four Loko because it is cheap.
“Four Loko I feel is popular among most of the college students that like to party. It is less than $3 a can, and it gets people drunk faster than beer,” junior Andrew Kornberg said.
Although Seton Hall does not provide Four Loko or any alcoholic beverage on campus, University Liquors is only a few steps outside of the gates and sells the drink.
Store clerk and cashier at University Liquors, Liz Zevallos, said they receive 120 cans of Four Loko a week, and they usually have none left by the end of the weekend until the next shipment arrives.
“They are just crazy about the drink,” Zevallos said about her customers.
She also added that some of the customers are getting conscious about it and mentioning that it is not good for them.
According to Anna Farneski, the spokesperson for Ramapo College, the school banned the beverage because they have seen it grown in popularity on campus
“What we saw from the start of the semester was an increase in the number of students who became intoxicated enough to be concerned about to send to the hospital,” Farneski said.
Verem said she hopes a ban would be successful if Seton Hall made the decision to ban the drink.
“But I am also hoping that our students are educated enough about the alcohol and its effect that they would make smarter choices and not consume this beverage,” she said.
However, students feel the ban would drive peers to search for drinks like Four Loko.
“I really feel students would not make a huge deal out of it,” Kornberg said. “Liqueur (sic) stores have all kinds of cheap malt beverages that are affordable for all parties.”
Maloney said we have not had reason to ban Four Loko and felt similar to Kornberg on the issue.
“If Seton Hall banned Four Loko it wouldn’t make much of a difference because there are so many similar drinks,” he said.
States such as Michigan and Washington have banned the sales of Four Loko. University of Rhode Island has also banned the beverage. Other states and universities may soon be following. Lawmakers in Oregon and New York are currently pushing for a ban of the beverage, as well.
Nicole Bitette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.