November 14, 2010

Four Loko Maker to Halt New York State Deliveries by Friday

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Four Loko producer Phusion Products has voluntarily agreed to stop shipping its product to New York State starting this Friday, Gov. David Paterson and State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen announced Sunday. In addition, New York State’s largest beer distributors have agreed to clear the drink — and similar beverages that combine caffeine and alcohol — from their inventories by Dec. 10.

Trashed by health experts, government officials and the media, Four Loko has been banned in four states — Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma — and is under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Although many students were hesitant to speak on record about their Four Loko consumption, the “blackout in a can” has had Cornell’s campus — like University campuses nationwide — in a Loko craze.

Chris Baciano ’11, for instance, dressed up as a Four Loko can for Halloween, painting himself in the cans’ colors and even attached a metal can tab to his hat.

Baciano he doubted whether eliminating the product from stores would be effective, saying he and his friends were “about to stock up on [Four Loko] for the future.”

Ana Arroyo ’13 got a free Four Loko shirt with the purchase of a dozen Four Loko cans from Universal Deli in Collegetown.  She and her friends later argued whether she had purchased the T-shirt and gotten free Four Lokos or purchased Four Lokos and gotten a free T-shirt.

Representative of a common sentiment among students, Arroyo said she wondered why Four Loko would be removed from stores when “people can combine red bull and vodka anyway.”

Arroyo’s friend Wandi Schell ’13 agreed.

She called its elimination “unbelievable,” adding, “How can they ban Four Loko because a few irresponsible shitheads don’t know how to drink it?”

Other students also lamented the abrupt end of Four Loko in New York State.

“I’m going to black out a lot less, but I will miss that lemonade flavor,” Laura Ptotefsky ’14 said.

“Rest in peace, Four Loko,” Josh Brown ’11 said. “It was good knowing you. We had some good times.”

Brown added that ceasing distribution of Four Loko “will be unfortunate for the amount and variety of fun we’ll have as college students.”

Still, Governor David Paterson of New York praised the agreement reached between the State Liquor Authority and Phusion Projects as an “important first step toward permanently removing alcoholic energy drinks from the marketplace” in a statement issued by the New York State Liquor Authority.

In the same statement, State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen said that there is “simply not enough research to show that these products are safe.”

A statement from Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Phusion Projects Jaisen Freeman said the company’s members “still believe that combining caffeine and alcohol is safe.” The statement also said Phusion Projects had agreed to pull its product because “we want our company to be known for cooperation and collaboration, not controversy.”

Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations for Gannett Health Services, said it was “probably too soon to know” the health impact of pulling Four Loko from the market.  She emphasized that the University’s “main concern continues to be to have students understand what you’re putting in your body.”

“People were drinking other things before Four Loko was available and will continue to drink other things now,” Dittman said.

Like Dittman, many fraternity presidents downplayed the impact of Four Loko on Cornell’s social scene.

“[I] can’t say it’s changed the social scene,” said Isaiah Einzig ’12, President of Delta Upsilon. “People have always been out late and have always been drunk.”

Delta Chi President Craig Mason ’12 said he has not noticed “any significant difference from Four Loko’s presence” at fraternity parties this year.

Josh Brown agreed, saying the elimination of Four Loko will ultimately change the social scene “no more so than Travis Apgar will,” given that students will always find new ways to drink.

Owner of Universal Deli Mian Khalil said, “I don’t like to sell [Four Loko], to be honest with you,” but that he does so due to “customer demand.”

He said he gave out a few Four Loko t-shirts because they were given to him for free, but that he would “rather sell other stuff … I’m a parent, I have two boys, I don’t want to see something come and destroy the kids.”

“Obviously, [business] is going to slow down, but it’ll develop into something else,” Khalil said. “I would rather see students live longer than what they’re going to do with Four Loko.”

Original Author: Jeff Stein