Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maryland County Bans Caffine-Alcohol Drinks

MIAMI - OCTOBER 27:  Cans of Four Loko are see...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeHoward County is banning the sale of alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, effective at the close of business on Wednesday, Dec. 1, County Executive Kenneth Ulman and Health Officer Peter Beilenson announced Tuesday.

 County Executive Kenneth Ulman and Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson announced Tuesday, Nov. 30.

The ban— which applies to products such as Four Loko, Joose and Moonshot— comes after the Food and Drug Administration warning issued Nov. 17 that adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages is not recognized as safe.

Lisa de Hernandez, spokeswoman for the county Health Department, said there are about 25 different caffeine-infused alcoholic beverages that are made by four or five different companies in the United States.

“These ‘drinks’ are marketed to young adults despite the fact that one container provides the alcohol equivalent of three beers — nobody could, or should, try to consume that type of drink. We are banning them now because they are tragedies waiting to happen,” County Executive Kenneth Ulman said in a statement announcing the ban.

Beilenson agreed, noting the public health concern posed by the drinks because of the caffeine and high alcohol content.

“This combination of ingredients decreases an individual’s awareness of their alcohol intake potentially leading to serious illness or death,” he said in a statement.

Michigan and Washington state recently banned the drinks, and other states reportedly are considering bans as well. The drinks also have been banned on several college campuses.

The Howard County Health Department plans to send out letters Dec. 1 formally notifying county liquor establishments of the ban.

“Generally speaking, the turnaround time (between issuing and enforcing a ban) is not this fast,” Hernandez said, but “it’s a dangerous drink.”

“Alcohol is a depressant and caffeine is a stimulant,” she added. “You don’t feel the effects with the caffeine in there as you normally would.”

The Health Department plans to conduct follow-up investigations to make sure retailers are complying with the ban, but it encourages any resident who witnesses a sale of a alcoholic beverage containing caffeine in the county after Dec. 1 to report the incident to askhealth@howardcountymd.gov.

The first offense would result in a $50 fine, the second a $100 fine and the third a $500 fine, Hernandez said.

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