By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – An alcoholic beverage popular with college students is being scrutinized in Hawaii and outlawed in states across the country.
It is called Four Loko, 12% alcohol with a strong jolt of caffeine.
Four Loko is being discussed at the annual conference of Hawaii state liquor commissions on Kauai this week. At least four states, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington, have banned the drink. The FDA is reviewing Four Loko and drinks like it to determine if they are safe. It may revise its stand on "energy / alcohol" beverages as soon as Wednesday.
On the mainland Four Loko has been consumed by drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents and been the beverage of choice at college parties from which students have been rushed to hospitals with alcohol poisoning.
Hawaii News Now questioned students at the University of Hawaii who explained why Four Loko is popular.
They say price (under $3 for a 23.5 ounce can), colorful packaging, taste, availability, potency, and caffeine content are all reasons why Four Loko has made such a splash.
"It doesn't taste like alcohol you know. Like beer or hard liquor, you'll have like that taste and you won't be able to drink a lot of it, but Four Loko it masks the taste so much that you just want to keep drinking it. And it's good. It's like fruit flavored," said UH Junior Bryan Lewandowski.
"If you don't like the taste of beer, it doesn't have that flavor which a lot of people don't like. And I usually do it because it's cheaper. The not falling asleep also helps too," said UH graduate student Jenny Bellville referring to the caffeine in Four Loko.
Students told Hawaii News Now four Loko goes down easy, so people do not realize how much alcohol they have consumed. And they say the caffeine makes them feel sober and keeps them awake until they consume dangerous amounts of the drink.
Four Loko is sold at more than 150 stores on Oahu. At least one state law maker hopes to change that. He said he plans to introduce legislation during the 2011 legislative session to outlaw Four Loko in Hawaii.