Baltimore City and Howard County said Nov. 30 that they will fine merchants who refuse to stop selling caffeine-infused alcohol drinks - a move designed to add teeth to state and federal warnings about the popular beverages. The city's ban on Four Loko and similar drinks, which goes into effect after 5 p.m. Thursday, calls for fines of up to $1,000. The county's ban, which goes into effect a day earlier, has staggered fines of up to $500.Peter Beilenson, Howard County's health officer, said county officials believed the ban was necessary because the safety warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state health officials sent mixed messages. "I went into a couple of liquor stores today to see if I could find the stuff and one store said that they were all banned. But that isn't true, the FDA just threatened," he said. "Another store said he couldn't sell Four Loko but he could sell Joose, which has exactly the same content. The liquor stores didn't seem to know and they're a mile apart. We'll get the strong message out that there is a ban on all these drinks, period." Even without bans, other counties will be able to remove the alcohol from shelves because the state has determined the beverages are "adulterated."
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