Energy drink ban proposed in two states

Could Red Bull be the next energy drink banned? Getty Images Sport

First Four Loko. Now Red Bull?

Last month legislators in New York and Kentucky began considering bans of energy drink sales to minors. The proposals come following a warning on alcoholic energy drinks by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and measures in several states outlawing their sale.

In December the Suffolk County Legislature in New York State held a public hearing on a bill that would ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under age 19. The proposed bill in Suffolk, on the eastern end of Long Island, would target energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar, all of which invest heavily across action sports as sponsors of both events and athletes.

In Kentucky, Representative Danny Ford, a Republican state legislator from Mount Vernon, is considering a similar plan that would outlaw sales to anyone under 18.

In Suffolk County, the ban would target energy drinks with more than 80 milligrams of caffeine per serving, slightly more than the average soft drink. Stores that sell such beverages would be required to post signs warning customers of health risks associated with the products. Retailers would be fined $250 for failing to post the sign, and $500 for selling to minors.

"These drinks can potentially be dangerous for teens," Legislator Lynne Nowick, the primary sponsor of the bill, told NBC News earlier this month. "Why put foreign things in your body when you don't know what's going into them? The drinks are not regulated."

Four states have already banned alcoholic energy drinks, the most infamous of which is Four Loko, a highly caffeinated malt liquor beverage known as "blackout in a can" that had been linked with several deaths in 2010.

New York State banned Four Loko and the F.D.A. issued warnings in November to producers of alcoholic energy drinks, calling caffeine added to the drinks an "unsafe food additive" following a year-long study.

But the legislation in Suffolk County and Kentucky would be the first in the country to ban non-alcoholic energy drinks, a $7 billion a year industry, according to ESPN E:60.

A spokesman for Red Bull referred questions to the American Beverage Association, an industry trade group representing manufacturers and distributors of energy drinks.

A statement on the beverage association's website last month read: "We wonder, will they also restrict the sale of coffee for the same reasons? After all, someone standing in line for coffee at the corner coffeehouse is about to get twice as much caffeine than from an energy drink."

But not all energy drinks are created equal. In August, the American Association of Poison Control Centers issued a statement regarding dangers posed by energy drinks that read: "The amount of caffeine found in many energy drinks is much greater than the amount found in soda and is often much greater than the amount found in a cup of coffee."

The statement went on to warn that if improperly consumed, energy drinks could cause symptoms ranging from "nausea, vomiting, and nervousness" to "seizures, and increased heart rhythm."

The bill in Suffolk County, co-sponsored by eight of the 18 legislators, will be subject to public hearings beginning Feb. 1.

So far, not all the legislators support the proposal.

"I don't like telling 18-and-19-year-olds what they can and can't do," Legislator Jack Eddington said at the December hearing, according to The North Shore Sun, a local paper. "They can fight in a war, but they can't buy an energy drink? Where are our priorities?"