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For two years now, Tracy Trypuc has been Suffolk County’s leading advocate for banning the sale of energy drinks to young people.
The registered nurse and board of health member has frequently delivered public testimony on the health dangers that she says the beverages can cause, but one of her most recent pleas has made her the target of an alleged intimidation campaign.
On Dec. 13, as the legislature’s health committee discussed an upcoming bill that would aim to stop Suffolk energy drink sales to anyone under 19, Trypuc urged lawmakers not to be swayed by what's likely to be a fierce battle with the beverage industry.
"They swoop in with their lobbyists and their money," she told the committee. "What's more important is the health and safety of the children of Suffolk County."
Newsday included the quote in a story on the hearing. Four days later, Trypuc said, a package with no return address arrived at her home: it contained two cans of Red Bull-brand energy drink and a clipping of the article with her name underlined.
“I felt that obviously someone was trying to send a message to me,” Trypuc said on Wednesday. “I did feel a little apprehensive.”
She reported the package – postmarked in Patchogue – to Suffolk police on Dec. 18. A police spokesperson said on Wednesday that its 6th precinct crime section is investigating.
If the delivery was an attempt to dissuade her from pressing forward in support of an energy drink ban, Trypuc said that it won’t work.
“The important thing is I’m not going to be intimidated,” she said. “I’ve been living with this issue for quite some time.”
The county’s efforts began in 2010, when Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James) introduced bills to establish energy drink education campaigns and ban their sale to minors. In the face of heavy resistance, those efforts were withdrawn.
Trypuc continued to advocate for a ban, however, and last month, the board of health sent the legislature a letter calling for a renewed push. Legis. William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) has said he will introduce legislation early next year, after working to precisely define energy drinks for the purpose of a ban.
But Spencer recently said he has agreed to meet with Red Bull representatives prior to introducing his bill. The company has repeatedly said that its products are safe, and that it limits marketing to younger consumers.
Trypuc, however, said that she worries about lawmakers giving too much time to opponents of the ban before legislation is even introduced.
“If we keep meeting with Red Bull," she said, "they’re going to keep pressing…to possibly water this down."