Doctors’ Group Wants To Ban Companies From Marketing Energy Drinks To Kids

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The American Medical Association (AMA) on Tuesday formally endorsed banning the marketing of energy drinks to children under age 18, citing the health risks associated with beverages high in caffeine and supplements like taurine.

“Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,” wrote AMA board member Dr. Alexander Ding in a statement.

Food makers have increasingly been pumping caffeine into common foods and drinks, prompting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to open an investigation into the practice. Many of the products come in child-friendly forms, such as gum or candy.

Drink manufacturers slammed the AMA’s decision, claiming that they take their products’ health risks into account and do not market to children. Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for the beverage industry, argued that drink companies “voluntarily display total caffeine amounts” and include advisories on their packaging warning that energy drinks aren’t meant for children or pregnant women.

But companies that manufacture energy beverages that are meant for consumption by adults have regularly targeted children through television and radio campaigns. Researchers from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that American teenagers were exposed to 18 percent more television ads and 46 percent more radio ads for energy drinks than adults were in 2010. Those numbers represent a 20 percent increase over the two years before that.

In May, San Francisco’s public attorney filed a lawsuit against Monster Beverage for targeting children in their advertising, noting that Monster’s website “uses children as young as six years old to promote its brand.”

As energy drinks such Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar have grown in popularity, so has the number of Americans going to the emergency room because of them. There have been at least five deaths and one heart attack linked to Monster since 2004, and the number of energy drink-related ER trips doubled between 2007 and 2011 to 20,000 hospitalizations.