Letters to the Editor

Loko over Four Loko

Re: “Four Loko is too much” (Dec. 2, 2010)

Dear Editors,

When I first had a ‘Jägerbomb’, I was aware of the potential consequences of my action. Personal interest had led me to read about the health effects of mixing caffeine and alcohol.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so interested. Had I not gone and done the research myself, I simply would not have known the consequences.

Nothing on the bottle of Jägermeister told me. Nothing on the can of Red Bull told me. The bartender did not tell me of any consequences.

The editorial on the recent bans of Four Loko makes a challenging point. Instead of making the argument that people be made aware of the potential consequences of drinking Four Loko and allowing them to make their own decisions based on those consequences, the editorial recommends reducing choice.

The suggestion is made that “it’s a good idea to make potentially dangerous beverages less available.” In effect, it suggests a ban or a tax of some sort to discourage the consumption of the beverage.

Banning Four Loko is not a method of tackling a problem. In all of the media attention surrounding the drink, people have forgotten the reason why Four Loko may have negative health effects. The drink is not malignant by nature; it being ‘Four Loko’ is meaningless.

Rather, the health consequences of the drink are due to the fact that it is a beverage which contains both alcohol and caffeine. Caffeinated drinks with alcohol have been around as long as caffeine and alcohol have. ‘Irish coffee’ and ‘Jägerbombs’ are both popular and well-known drinks.

Unfortunately for the author’s proposition, a myriad of research has shown that measures to reduce availability of potentially harmful substances may increase the actual harm caused by those substances.

When goods are illegal, users of those goods know less about the consequences of the goods than they otherwise would. They know less about if they can consume the product safely and how different quantities affect them. Whereas Four Loko has a standardized and predictable set of ingredients, the homemade Jägerbomb does not.

A study for the UK Department of Health’s ‘Know Your Limit’s’ campaign showed that the ‘home barman’ pours, on average, twice the amount he would receive in a pub, regardless of whether he poured a glass of chardonnay or a shot of Smirnoff.

There is no reason to believe that he would not pour similarly large amounts when mixing caffeine and alcohol.

Instead of taking away people’s choice to consume a potentially harmful substance, we should be educating people of the consequences, so they can make their own decisions responsibly.

Dan Osborne, ArtSci ’12
President, Queen’s University Libertarian Association

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