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Under 19? Suffolk bill could ban Red Bull

Red Bull energy drink.

Red Bull energy drink. Credit: Newsday/Sune Woods

People younger than 19 would be forbidden from buying Red Bull and other nonalcoholic energy drinks in a proposal Suffolk Legis. Lynne Nowick said is the first in the nation.

The legislation, which the St. James Republican introduced Tuesday, would require retailers that sell energy drinks to post a warning that drinking them could aggravate heart conditions, cause headaches, dehydration "and in rare cases, death."

Nowick's proposal would fine retailers $500 for selling energy drinks to minors and $250 for not posting the sign. The legislation is co-sponsored by seven other Suffolk lawmakers, including presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) and Minority Leader Daniel Losquadro (R-Shoreham).

"A lot of people don't know and there's no signage there, that these drinks may interfere with certain prescription medications and birth control," Nowick said.

In recent months, four states have banned alcoholic energy drinks and Gov. David A. Paterson brokered a deal to stop sales of one of the brands in New York. But Nowick said she believes her proposal to be the first in the country to ban the sale of nonalcoholic energy drinks to minors.

The American Beverage Association, a Washington lobbying group that represents Red Bull and other energy drink companies, said the legislation "is simply without merit."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Steven Shelov, of the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said consuming a large quantity of high-caffeine drinks isn't good for anyone, especially children whose bodies are still developing. "These are high caffeine-containing drinks that in any degree of excess for children is not a good idea," he said.

Dr. Peter Morelli, professor of pediatric cardiology at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said the hospital has seen several children admitted with irregularly fast heartbeats after ingesting the drinks. "They'll come in with their hearts racing and we have to give them medication or get them shocked back into rhythm," he said.

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