Senators Urge Colleges To Ban ‘Blackout In A Can’

State Senator Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Union, speaks about legislation pertaining to the FY 2011 Budget.

Propose Legislation To Prohibit Alcoholic Energy Drinks On NJ College Campuses

TRENTON – Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), chairs of the Senate Education and the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committees, respectively, today urged New Jersey�s college and university presidents to ban from their campuses alcoholic energy drinks, commonly known as ‘blackout in a can.’

In letters issued to all college and university presidents, the senators said an immediate statewide campus ban is necessary because of the risk involved with students consuming too much of the substance, and the potential for widespread sickness.

“We cannot emphasize enough the danger these drinks pose to our young people,” the Senators wrote. “A single alcoholic energy drink contains the equivalent of up to four beers and three cups of coffee, an extremely potent combination of depressants and stimulants that can create a deceiving sense of sobriety, leading to over-intoxication and blackouts. Extreme intoxication has become so widespread with consumption that the popular Four Loko alcoholic energy drink inspired a Web site that serves as a forum for consumers to post their blackout stories.”

The Senators’ request comes after 23 alcohol-related hospitalizations of Ramapo University students, some of whom had been drinking the stimulant-laced alcoholic beverages. The university subsequently banned the drinks from campus last month, but other Garden State colleges and universities have not followed suit.

Meanwhile, controversy over the drinks has grown. The hospitalization of nine students after an off-campus party near Central Washington University led college officials to approve a campus-wide ban. Today, the state of Washington banned the drinks statewide. Michigan has also prohibited sales of the drinks in the state. And the controversy has prompted discussions in New York about changing state laws to give the State Liquor Authority the power to outlaw the cocktails.

The Senators are having legislation drafted to ban alcoholic energy drinks from all college campuses – both public and independent – but, in the interest of student safety, are urging the university presidents and boards of trustees to institute an immediate campus-wide ban.

The most popular of the alcoholic energy drinks include Four Loko, Joose and 808, and are sold in a variety of juice flavors for $2 to $3 a can.

The Senators’ full letter, which has been sent to each college president, is below.

Dr. R. Barbara Gitenstein

President

The College of New Jersey

Ewing, NJ 08628

Dear President Gitenstein,

The growing popularity among college students of alcoholic energy drinks known as ‘blackout in a can’ has become extremely concerning. As you are aware, Ramapo University last month banned the beverages after 23 students were hospitalized with alcohol-related sicknesses, many after allegedly drinking the stimulant-infused concoctions.

The State of Washington banned the drinks today, weeks after nine young people who ingested them at an off-campus Central Washington University party became ill and were hospitalized. The State of Michigan has also prohibited sales statewide.

We cannot emphasize enough the danger these drinks pose to our young people. A single alcoholic energy drink contains the equivalent of up to four beers and three cups of coffee, an extremely potent combination of depressants and stimulants that can create a deceiving sense of sobriety, leading to over-intoxication and blackouts. Extreme intoxication has become so widespread with consumption that the popular Four Loko alcoholic energy drink inspired a Web site that serves as a forum for consumers to post their blackout stories.

We are especially concerned about the prevalence on these types of beverages on college campuses, in part, because young people appear to be the marketing target of the production companies. To limit availability of these drinks, we are proposing legislation to ban them on all college campuses in New Jersey. However, we believe the risk involved with these particular drinks warrants more immediate action. To that end, we respectfully urge you and your board of trustees to immediately institute a campus-wide ban on all alcoholic energy beverages. This is critical to ensuring the safety and protection of our college students.

Sincerely,

Loretta Weinberg

Senator, 37th Legislative District

Health, Human Servicecs and Senior Citizens Committee, Chair

M. Teresa Ruiz

Senator, 29th Legislative District

Education Committee, Chair