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Vetoing Vicious Vodka

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Editor's Note: Steve Chapman is on vacation. The following column was originally published in August 2009.

Wisconsin calls itself America's Dairyland, and anyone who travels there soon learns the unofficial state motto: "You want cheese on that?" In the old days, it tried to discourage the use of nondairy spreads. You could buy margarine, which is naturally white, and you could buy yellow food coloring. But you could not buy margarine that contained yellow food coloring.

If that sounds like a sensible policy, you will have no trouble with a campaign to stamp out beverages that contain both caffeine and alcohol. Some people like a combination of the two ingredients, in the form of bourbon and Coke, whiskey and coffee, or NoDoz with a beer chaser. But professional paternalists think the government should stop beverage-makers from offering a product that, shockingly, satisfies both demands at once.

This may be hard to believe, but it's true. Recently, the attorneys general of Maine, Maryland and Connecticut wrote the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that alcoholic energy drinks "are unsafe products that pose serious health and safety risks to consumers, particularly youth, and should be removed from the marketplace."

Left unmentioned was that alcohol all by itself qualifies as an unsafe product in that its misuse can cause illness, death and waking up next to people you don't recognize. So far, at least, these officials are not pushing for the return of Prohibition.

Earlier, some attorneys general had coerced Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors to stop making caffeinated alcoholic beverages. When other companies stepped in to satisfy the drinking public, the AGs went after them. The Food and Drug Administration is examining whether it also needs to act.

As a matter of logic, this approach is the equivalent of trying to prevent obesity by telling restaurants they may not offer a cheeseburger-and-fries entree, forcing diners to order the two foods separately. It would not have much effect on eating habits. Like Brad and Angelina, or beaches and bikinis, some pairings are just inevitable.

Wisconsin, by the way, utterly failed in its efforts to halt the use of margarine within its borders and to prevent the general rise of products that don't require a cow.

Today cheeseheads can even buy Cool Whip and soymilk.

The lesson is that there is no point in passing laws at war with human nature.

If people want to employ caffeine to keep them from dozing off at the bar or ethanol to calm Starbucks-induced jitters, they will find a way to do it. Lately, college kids have devised their own 21st-century version of Irish coffee by mixing Red Bull with vodka. Or they can buy pre-mixed concoctions with names like Vicious Vodka and Liquid Charge.

Scaremongers think these latter beverages promote alcohol abuse among young people, presumably by letting drunks stay conscious long enough to get even drunker. But if putting caffeine and alcohol in one convenient container generates wild excess, you would expect binge drinking among college students to be soaring. In fact, it hasn't budged since 1993.

Critics claim the mixture vastly increases the dangers of youthful boozing, citing a Wake Forest University study published last year. Researchers found that students who downed drinks with both caffeine and alcohol were more likely than other student drinkers to suffer injuries, to ride with drunken drivers and to take sexual advantage of others.

Those findings are a flimsy excuse to stamp out pre-mixed cocktails. The study was not limited to those drinks, after all. Students paired caffeine and alcohol before the invention of Liquid Charge and would continue to do so if it ceased to exist.

Nor did the study demonstrate that this type of drinking actually causes the bad effects. Just as plausible is that students prone to do reckless things are more likely than their peers to knock back Jager bombs. Or, as the study itself acknowledged, "sensation-seeking individuals may be drawn to energy drinks, heavy alcohol consumption and risky behaviors."

Take away this type of product, and maybe those consumers would switch to chocolate milk. But probably they'll just find another way to get the buzz they want.

Instead of declaring war on Vicious Vodka, maybe disapproving government officials ought to try kicking back with an ice-cold glass of the stuff. With its ingredients, it might help them do a couple of useful things: 1) relax, and 2) wake up.

Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman. To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM



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1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... That is exactly what I mean... Work can be a wonderful thing, and way to recreate your self in the process of creation; but just offer to pay some one peanuts for doing what they enjoy most and they start needing a vacation... What they hell is writing an article that you need a vacation from it???
I can see you now: Babe, I just can't get out of bed today; my fingers are killing me... You guys got it Dee eye see Kay-ed... What was that line from Hitchcock: I am having too much trouble relaxing from the strain of oversleeping... Enjoy your nap... Kick back, crack a beer, wish me happy birthday, or happy turkey day,which ever comes first this year; and if you ever run out of stuff to say just read the nonsense other people are giving voice to....If what passes for thought among many people were written as opera it would be suffered as cacaphony...
If you have ever been in a foundry you might find it one of the loudest and most grimy-est places on the earth, and this is no mere butchery of our common tongue, for filth can become so ingrained in the pores of your skin that only time will wash it away...What wild riot it seems, with fires flashing, sparks flying and trip hammers pounding, drive motors humming, and above it all, overhead cranes whining and rattling through the smoke and din and racket... But out of all of that brimstoned hell something is produced besides pollution and human misery...
It is so easy to trade the pain of another for something good produced down the line... We should always make certain what is produced is worth the pain that bought it...All you have to do to write with renewed vigor around here is look at all those people trying to justify misery and injustice that -as a practical matter- is really unnnecessary, and produces no good...
People are inclined to be happy... Like dogs we try to wag our tails on the way to being put down... To live, to love and to enjoy -as the stuff of life which gives all meaning, we look for good in life, and often find it... Some people are poor because they can never be happy, and are not happy not because they have no wealth...I would do nothing for such people be try to remove the most obvious impediments to their happiness, and leave them be... But what I say of the poor is so obviously true of the rich who are rich by any relative standard, but feel poor, and out of their poverty and unhappiness -try to deprive all other people of the joy of life, of the meaning of being...
Justice is my thing...But happines is my goal... Today I am happy, and my happiness renews me... And renewed, I would give you justice, and give us justice...There is work to be done, and as a child taught me, the work of a life time must some times be finished in a day...
Yet, I was made for this, and this is my vacation, and my retirement... Working for a living, knowing the injustice of the society, of the economy, of the legal system, all making petty tyrants of people who in lighter moments may have been just fine was only an apprenticeship under a hard master...Now, I am a journeyman and this is the work of my day... It does not even pay peanuts, and for it I must sometimes suffer contumely, but I was made to raise a hue and cry after justice denied... And it is my pleasure...I'm sorry you need a vacation from my vocation...
Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Nov 24, 2012 6:30 AM
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