Spencer Comments On Energy Drinks Ban

Filed under: Around Town,News,OPINION,Politics |

June 25, 2013

Dear Editor,

William Spencer 1As the author of the nation’s first ban on the marketing of energy/stimulant drinks to minors, I am pleased to announce that the American Medical Association has supported my resolution.  They agree with the scientific and medical proof that these high-caffeine beverages can cause heart problems and other health issues in children and adults with compromised health issues.  The AMA is the nation’s largest physicians’ association with over 300,000 members.

The AMA — and by extension the entire country — now understands what we’ve been saying here in Suffolk County for the past year.   And that message is simply this: Energy Drinks are dangerous for children and the manufacturers of those products should not be allowed to specifically aim their marketing efforts at our unsuspecting kids. I am encouraged that the AMA decision will put pressure on the FDA to prohibit the marketing of energy drinks to children nationwide, which could prevent future tragedies from occurring.  This is certainly proof that we all can make a difference!

The landmark legislation that my colleagues approved in March was the first in the nation!  Since taking on this issue, I have worked very hard to educate my medical colleagues about the industry’s aggressive marketing practices.  As an officer of the Suffolk County Medical Society, I presented my resolution to the New York State House of Delegates meeting of the Medical Society of the State of New York in April, 2013. Our NYS delegation to the American Medical Association felt so strongly about the issue that they brought my resolution to the annual meeting of the AMA last week, where physicians nationwide approved it!

However, I was very careful not to overreach.  Parents ultimately make the appropriate decisions to protect their children and I crafted legislation that would not only educate students but protect them from the marketing strategies parents can’t control.  These manufacturers use highly persuasive graphics, colors, characters and placement in videos, movies and in stores to lure children into believing if they consume these drinks they will perform better and look cooler.  These drinks contain stimulants.  There is proof that the young, developing brain can become sensitive to these stimulants and as the children mature, the need for stimulants has been programmed into their brain.  These drinks, according to drug abuse specialists, can be a precursor to stimulant drug abuse.

A colleague and AMA board member, Dr. Alexander Ding, said in a statement. “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.”

Suffolk County’s landmark ban on the marketing of energy drinks was part of a three-pronged initiative.  In addition to helping parents protect their children, the other two prongs were a ban on the sale of energy/stimulant drinks to minors in Suffolk County parks and creation of a public awareness campaign.   Together, I believe we can make a difference for our most vulnerable.  And I thank my colleagues in the Suffolk County Legislature, Suffolk County Medical Society, the Medical Society of the State of New York and the American Medical Society for their work on this very important issue.

Sincerely,

William R. Spencer
Suffolk County Legislator
18th Legislative District

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