Thursday, October 28, 2010

This Drink's On Me

I vividly remember the time I got totally smashed at college. It was an end of term party attended by many in the Brooklyn College Young Leadership Development Council I had joined as a second semester freshman.

When I arrived around 4 pm at the fraternity house where the party was already in full swing, I was immediately given a tall screwdriver (for those not familiar with that drink, it’s a combination of vodka and orange juice). From the first sip I could tell there was just enough OJ to give the 10 oz. glass a yellowish tinge. Before I knew it, I had downed three such drinks, all, I might add, on an empty stomach. The only thing that saved me from a fourth was my inability to swallow while prone on a couch, a position I had retreated into within an hour. I couldn’t move. I lay there for the next several hours, as every time I attempted to straighten up the room kept spinning. I didn’t throw up, as my friend Paul did, but I definitely, as they say, felt no pain. Around 10 pm I managed to stand up, stumble down three flights without falling, and slowly (stupidly) drove three miles back home.

I recalled that horribly intense and embarrassing feeling when I read earlier this week about the latest liquid craze to infiltrate college life—the consumption of a toxic mix of alcohol and caffeine. The caffeine camouflages the numbing effects of the alcohol, causing the reveler to drink more to get a buzz. More turns out to be near lethal amounts of alcohol, sending many to hospitals (

Of course college kids are going to party to excess. But that should not absolve the makers of Four Loko and other such concoctions from the consequences of their creations. They claim their product is not intended to be abused or sold to underage drinkers. But let’s be serious. What redeeming quality is there for anyone to drink a mixture that masks how smashed you become and therefore wind up drinking more?

How do they sleep at night? How do the providers of these drinks sleep without having visions of their customers lying in emergency rooms, wasted beyond comprehension?

I don’t reserve the same wrath for purveyors of soda and other sugary drinks, though the negative health consequences of consuming too much sweetened water are obvious to anyone who has paid attention to our nation’s expanding waist lines and the number of people tipping into Type II diabetes affliction. While some might decry the Bloomberg administration’s attempt to intrude into people’s life choices, I have no problem agreeing food stamps should not be used to buy sugar-based drinks. Nor do I have any problem with raising sales taxes on these products. Just as cigarette consumption declined when taxes made it too onerous to buy a pack of smokes, so too must we legislate restraint for those who cannot do it on their own.

I’m a reformed regular soda drinker. I eagerly drank Coca-Cola until I was about 45 years old. Even with our children around and impressionable, I drank Coke. Gilda would tell Dan and Ellie, “Daddy has an addiction, a bad habit.” They never developed the sugar habit. To this day they prefer water to soda.

I drank Coke until my blood sugar left me no choice but to change my ways. Diet Coke didn’t taste good at first, so I switched to Crystal Light lemonade for refreshment. Eventually I made peace with the Diet Coke taste. The point is, behavior can be taught and modified. Our children did not learn (from me) to drink soda. I overcame my addiction.

Libertarians would have government stay out of our lives, stay out of our food and drink selections. But like it or not we all pay for the excesses of others. Our insurance rates reflect the cost of obesity in others. I’m tired of paying for their mistakes, their poor life choices.