Blame It on the Joose

Kim Cyprian/Guardian
Kim Cyprian/Guardian

NATIONAL NEWS — Last week, the Food and Drug Administration sent a group of alcoholic-energy-drink producers a hostile warning: either prove their efficient beverages harmless within 30 days or face product discontinuation.

But before the FDA adopts such a righteous approach to the caffeine-plus-alcohol buzz, it should consider the craftiness of the product’s No. 1 fans.

Not to mention the logical sore thumb in this situation: If the FDA were to ask all the alcoholic beverage and tobacco companies in the country for proof that their products were harmless, we’d be facing Prohibition: Part Two in 30 days flat.

Then there’s the fact that mixing depressants like alcohol with stimulants like caffeine isn’t a novel concept. We’ve been Irishing up our coffee far too long for the FDA to label the alcoholic energy drink a concerning new craze.

The FDA wants to eliminate fizzy fruit-flavored beverages like Joose — which contains about 4 percent more alcohol than your average Budweiser — for two reasons: They make people feel less impaired than they actually are, and those people are usually young. And, though this might be a farfetched assumption, it’s likely FDA officials don’t think young people can handle their shit.

For the most part, the FDA’s right; young people are serious drinkers. According to a 2008 study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adults aged 18 to 24 are the most likely to participate in “high risk” drinking — something you could have inferred yourself after a highly vomitous freshman year.

And it seems like any beverage that tastes like grape soda has a pretty sweet Von-Dutch rip-off aesthetic and — most importantly — will get you twice as drunk as Bud Light must be stopped, for the sake of the children. Except that banning alcoholic energy drinks overlooks one detail: There’s still nothing to stop us wily college kids — or any old bartender, for that matter — from mixing Red Bull with Smirnoff and calling it a night.

One of youth’s favorite activities is breaking petty laws — downloading trilogies, stealing eye drops, smoking the reefer, speeding, owning ferrets — you name it. So what’s to stop us from brewing our own Four Loko-inspired, modern day moonshine? We’re just a hop, skip and a Rockstar away from rocket-charged jungle juice.

Banning alcoholic energy drinks because they’re marketed to young people follows the same logic as eliminating Victoria Secret’s Pink line because it encourages underage girls to have sex. It assumes the worst about the product without placing responsibility in the hands of the sinner.

If FDA officials respected everyone’s god-given right to make poor health choices — not just crusty, whiskey-sipping chain smokers’ — they’d get out the party and stop threatening to dry up our Joose supply.

But since they’ve already sent out an official warning, the FDA should at least do something useful with its power. Why not slap a Surgeon General’s warning on every can, warning against the effects of combining alcohol and caffeine (and add a fat sales tax to boot). A higher price might encourage some Four fans to settle for Natural Light, and the money collected from all those already hooked on alcoholic energy drinks could go toward youth-targeted drunk-driving prevention programs like Every 15 Minutes. Or hey, maybe all that drunk pocket change could save the future of the University of California. Anything would be better than sweeping the whole mess under the rug with all those other forbidden things we still use.

Also, avoiding a complete ban of the beverage would allow the FDA to influence ingredients and alcoholic content — regulations that would fall to the wayside once students mix their own shoddy home-brews.

It’s about time our government got realistic about all the sinful temptations in this world. Kids have sex. They smoke pot. And they drink Joose. It’s all a matter of guiding — not forcing — us to practice healthy behavior. And even if educating our generation seems like a lost cause, at the very least they could save up to impart some wisdom on the next one.

Readers can contact Alyssa Bereznak at [email protected].