The state of Washington's Liquor Control Board on Wednesday followed Michigan's lead in banning the drink Four Loko, and all similar caffeinated malt liquor drinks. The move follows an incident in which dozens of Washington college students who are believed to have consumed the controversial beverage, were hospitalized.
Michigan's liquor control commission banned the retail sale of all alcoholic energy drinks statewide last week, including Four Loko, saying the drinks "present a threat to the public health and safety." Washington's ban will take effect Nov. 18. according to seattlepi.com.
Commonly known among college students as "blackout in a can," one can of the fruity liquor malt combines 12 percent alcohol with a kick of caffeine equal to an average cup of coffee. The contrasting effects of consuming alcohol and stimulants conceal the effects of the alcohol. Consumers who can't recognize the effect of the alcohol may drink more.
Many college campuses sent notices to students warning about the potential dangers of alcoholic energy drinks, and some campuses, such as the University of Rhode Island, have banned the drink. Besides Michigan and Washington, a push is underway in New York and Oregon for a statewide sales ban.
The maker of Four Loko, the controversial caffeinated alcoholic beverage that's believed to have caused the sickening of dozens of Central Washington University students, said it was the mixing of alcohol and possibly drugs that made the students so ill.
In the aftermath of the party last month, police found students passed out all over the house and rushed nine to the hospital. The incident prompted renewed calls to ban sales of the drink.
"One girl was sitting on a bench and she fainted, and my friend and I were like, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' We rushed out to help her and I gave her CPR," said one freshman who was at the Oct. 8 party but asked not to be identified.
"These people were still fighting for consciousness almost," the student said. "And their eyes were rolling back to their heads, and I've just never seen anything like that."
Four Loko manufacturer Phusion Projects defended its product in a statement to ABC News, pointing to seven labels on the can that warned of the drink's contents and calling attention to the need for identification to purchase it.
"The unacceptable incident at Central Washington University, which appears to have involved hard liquor ... and possibly illicit substances," the statement read, "is precisely why we go to great lengths to ensure that our products are not sold to underage consumers and are not abused."
Authorities who responded to the party said the students were in such bad condition that they were initially believed to have fallen victim to the date rape drug. But police said that toxicology tests performed on the students found no evidence of drug use.
Central Washington quickly joined a growing list of colleges that have banned the drinks, which sell for about $2.50 each.
The Food and Drug Administration is already investigating caffeinated alcoholic drinks, including Four Loko, and is asking for justification for putting caffeine in the beverages.