Malt beverage spikes attention at national level


An alcoholic beverage people commonly drink on college campuses is stirring trouble at the state and national levels.

Attorney General Jack Conway and 16 other state attorneys general wrote a letter dated Sept. 28 to Phusion Projects LLC that entreated the company to reduce the alcohol content of its flavored malt beverage Four Loko.

In March 2014, Conway and 19 other attorneys general resolved accusations with Phusion Projects about its promotion of the drink to minors, promotion of alcohol misuse and excessive consumption of the drink and failure to release information about the dangerous outcomes of drinking caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

Campbellsville senior Dallas Carroll is a 21-year-old opponent of the beverage.

“Four Loko’s marketing strategies do nothing to highlight the dangers of the drink,” Carroll said. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one standard serving of alcohol is defined as having about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.

“Some may use this due to being able to get more alcohol into their system faster and cheaper,” Ronnie Ward, public information officer for the Bowling Green Police Department, said.

For contrast, one Four Loko beverage is 23.5 ounces, has a 12 percent alcohol concentration and contains 4.7 servings of alcohol.

“The root problem is not the introduction of the drink to the store,” Ward said. “A person needs to decide for themselves if they can handle it or not, and to be cliché: Drink responsibly.”

The amount of alcohol in Four Loko beverages has also brought up the danger of binge drinking, which the CDC defines as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages for men and four or more for women in a two-hour period.

“Drinking just one can of Four Loko therefore constitutes a binge drinking episode according to the CDC,” the attorney general said in their letter to Phusion Projects.

One incentive for the letter was an incident earlier this year in Edgewater, Florida, when a teen pled no contest to DUI manslaughter after killing his 16-year-old cousin in a wreck after he had reportedly been drinking a Four Loko, according to Allison Gardner Martin, the communications director for the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

“The accident and other similar incidents involving teenagers were the catalysts for the letter,” Martin said.

Although Bowling Green has no documentation of Four Loko contributing to any accidents in the area, outcomes of drinking alcohol come down to the consumer, Ward said.

“This is no different than people complaining the government is making them wear a seatbelt,” said Ward. “It is protection from yourself.”

The letter was signed by attorneys general from the following states in addition to Kentucky: Ohio, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont.

“I think the actual outcome will be something positive involving the alcohol percentage, size of the product or — most importantly — the way the drink is marketed,” Carroll said. “I would like to see the drink banned due to personal bias; however, if any of the above changes were made, I’d be happy.”

After Conway and the other attorneys general expressed similar thoughts to Phusion Projects in their letter, the outcomes they hope for include reducing the alcohol content in the current size of a Four Loko or reducing the serving size of the drink’s container, Martin said.