New Study Highlights More Dangers Of "Alcopop" Consumption
The controversial, sweet, alcohol-laden soft drinks that have gained nicknames like "cheerleader beer" and "alcopops" are a favorite with minors, and a new study is once again putting dangers associated with these drinks in the spotlight. NY1's Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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Under intense pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, caffeine was already removed from drinks like Joose and last November, Four Loko.
A new paper published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine from doctors at Bellevue Hospital Center indicates it was the right move, because in the four months prior to that, 11 patients were rushed to their emergency room who were intoxicated by then-caffeinated Four Loko. All but one of the patients were under age 21.
Some were so severely blacked out that they wound up in situations that could have been deadly.
"We found that one patient had fallen into the subway tracks, was not injured by a subway car but certainly could have been. We found a patient who was unconscious at school, a patient who was in the park unattended," says Dr. Deborah Levine of Bellevue Hospital Center.
"The patients would come in with a higher heart rate and would come in sort of being more awake than they should be but still being altered. That's what prompts them to drink more and more," says Dr. Kelly Cleary of Bellevue Hospital Center.
Even though beverages like Four Loko no longer have the caffeine in them, doctors and health officials say they are still concerned about the strong alcohol content and what they describe as the drinks' "heavy" and "attractive" youth marketing.
Both Joose and Four Loko contain 12 percent alcohol in a 23.5-ounce can. Doctors say that is two or three times the amount of alcohol in beer and about the same as an entire bottle of wine.
With their fruity flavors, vivid colors and easy accessibility in most corner stores, New York City's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, says the target audience is clear.
"These alcopops are particularly appealing to the younger teenagers. So among eighth graders who drink, three-fourths of them are drinking alcopops. It is particularly common among 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds," says Farley.
The commissioner wants to see them banned from all convenience stores across the state. Legislation is currently pending to do just that, making the so-called "alcopops" only available in liquor stores.
The company Phusion, which makes Four Loko, responded to the study, "[T]he case series appears to relate to products that we have not produced for some time. Phusion takes its obligation to market and sell their products only to adults very seriously. Phusion believes the answer lies with increased education, stronger enforcement of existing laws and personal responsibility -- not unfairly singling out an alcoholic beverage."