AMA: Stop marketing energy drinks to minors

Suffolk regulations on energy drinks were passed despite Suffolk regulations on energy drinks were passed despite heavy lobbying by the American Beverage Association, which has leading energy drink makers Red Bull and Monster as members. (Feb. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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The American Medical Association has endorsed a ban on marketing energy drinks to minors, citing Suffolk County's action on the issue as an influence.

Leaders of the lobbying group, which represents 225,000 physicians nationwide, adopted the resolution Tuesday at its twice-annual policy meeting in Chicago. The resolution notes that Suffolk's board of health last year urged county lawmakers to prohibit the sale of the caffeine and stimulant-loaded beverages to people younger than 19. The association pointed to health dangers such as "elevated heart rates, high blood pressure and possible death."

"Banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common-sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids," AMA board member Alexander Ding said.

The Suffolk County Legislature stopped short of prohibiting sales of the drinks to minors. Instead, lawmakers voted to prohibit the sale of energy drinks to minors in county parks and to restrict companies from providing free drink samples or coupons to minors.

County Executive Steve Bellone signed both measures -- sponsored by Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), a county health board member -- into law in April.

The Suffolk regulations were passed despite heavy lobbying by the American Beverage Association, which has energy drink makers Red Bull and Monster as members. The association argued that its products were safe and had less caffeine than similarly sized coffees.The industry already limits marketing to minors by not selling the drinks in schools and by labeling cans as not recommended for young children, the association said.

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"We are disappointed that the American Medical Association passed a resolution which, unfortunately, relied heavily on misinformation," said American Beverage Association spokeswoman Maureen Beach.

Tracy Trypuc, a Suffolk County board of health member who led the push for the local regulations, said the AMA decision may increase support for federal regulations that some U.S. senators are pushing. "I think these companies now have to start looking more at their corporate responsibility," Trypuc said.

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