BOSTON (CBS) - Massachusetts alcohol agents are moving to ban the sale of the controversial drink known as "Four Loko," WBZ's Joe Shortsleeve has learned.
The powerful combination of alcohol and caffeine is a big hit with young people, but the colorful cans have also been linked to deaths and trips to the emergency room.
WHY THE BAN?
Consider this, 80 percent of the young people arrested for underage drinking in the past two weeks had this product on them.
So this Friday, the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission will file new regulations, essentially banning these drinks.
Most people know it as Four Loko, but there are actually 55 products like it with different names. They all contain a powerful combination of alcohol, sugar and caffeine and taste like fruity energy drinks.
But despite the fun name and colorful packaging, these drinks have been linked to illness and death.
These drinks are popular on college campuses. "I have heard about people getting hurt...going to the hospital… going to health services," one college student told WBZ. "They are definitely not good for you."
This student said these kinds of drinks are being called "black out in a can."
A POTENT DRINK
Each can contains the alcohol of four or five beers and the caffeine of four cans of soda.
WBZ has learned here in Massachusetts, the state alcohol beverage control commission has seen enough and wants them off shelves. They say the product is really not a malt liquor, but a much more potent form of hard liquor, like vodka.
The Chairman of the State Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, Kim Gainesboro, spoke exclusively to WBZ. "We are concerned about consumer protection. We are concerned that people who are drinking these alcoholic beverages are not aware of the ingredients which are contained in them."
ALREADY BANNED IN OTHER STATES
Massachusetts will now join Washington, Michigan, Utah and Oklahoma in banning these drinks. Arkansas, Indiana and Pennsylvania are now considering action.
New York recently reached a voluntary agreement with the liquor industry to pull the product off shelves.
At Martignetti Liquors in Boston, the manager says he supports this move by the state. "It looks like a soda pop," said Frank Cernigliaro. "It is not. It has a lot of alcohol in it. So if they are going to ban it, I am all for it."
WHEN WOULD THE BAN START?
Distribution and manufacturing of the drink will be banned as of Monday morning. Sale of the product will be banned shortly after that date.
Here in Massachusetts, investigators expect the liquor industry will re-package the product and probably down the road sell it as hard liquor.
There are more taxes on hard liquor and that alone will make it less attractive to the younger crowd.
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