In 1819, Thomas Jefferson said, “Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.”
Thomas Jefferson may never have envisioned his words being used in a case such as this, but he would undoubtedly view California’s ban on Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, as violating an individual’s rights. Although Four Loko is not the best drink of choice because of its blood-thinning and fast drunk-inducing properties, it should not be banned nor altered.
The government does not have the right to say what people can and cannot put in their body as long as the substance in question is legal. All of the ingredients in Four Loko can legally be sold individually, meaning the sale of Four Loko violates no laws. Banning a product made entirely of legal substances is a waste of resources and time that could be used to deal with real problems. Besides, what is going to stop a dedicated Four Loko consumers from buying malt liquor, a Rockstar energy drink and creating their own highly caffeinated alcohol mixture?
People mixed alcohol with energy drinks years before Four Loko hit the market. Regardless of whether or not they can buy Four Loko, anybody of legal drinking age can walk into a bar and order a Red Bull with vodka.
The Four Loko-related deaths and hospitalizations were not a direct result of consuming Four Loko, but stemmed from the binge-drinking craze that permeates American culture. We have organized opportunities for people to drink far too much alcohol without it being socially stigmatized. The fact that the government is more concerned with stopping people from consuming one beverage than stopping them from overindulging and ending up in the hospital is, frankly, sad.
California and other states that banned Four Loko should address the habits that lead Americans to binge drink rather than banning the drink. A simple disclaimer and education on the affects of combining alcohol with stimulants could prevent people from drinking excess amounts of the beverage. If we as a culture are so accepting of our young people going out and getting so trashed they’re passing out and forgetting what they did the night before, we should not be surprised when those same young people wind up sick or dying because of this behavior. If you want to get rid of a problem, deal with the cause, not the symptoms.
Banning Four Loko sets a legal precedent that makes banning any beverage that someone died after consuming fair game. What’s next, banning soda because people have diabetes?