Just how far should government go to control what people consume?
When it comes to energy drinks, pretty far -- at least according to one LA City Council member who is seeking what may be the nation's first ban of minors buying the high-octane beverages.
More than a year after former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg began his controversial quest to ban large sugary drinks from the city’s restaurants and eateries, a Los Angeles City Council committee met today to discuss possibly outlawing anyone under 18 from buying energy drinks.
Prompted by Councilman Bernard Parks, the committee last March requested a study of whether the city could require stores to provide special shelves and signs warning of the dangers of the sugary, caffeine-filled drinks.
"If there is adverse effects by those who consume these products, (energy drink makers should) go ahead and clearly label it in the stores and possibly on the can,” said Noel Pallaise of the Office of Councilman Bernard Parks.
Lawmakers also discussed the possibilty of banning the use of energy drinks by city employees while on duty, including sanitation workers, drivers, those in public works, firefighters and police, according to City Councilman Tom LaBonge.
The highly caffenated energy drinks are a diuretic, and could lead to dehydration among firefighters when battling a blaze. There is also an issue of impaired judgement by amped up police officers, according to an NBC4 report.
However, the Pentagon authorizes, and some say encourage, the use of energy drinks among military personnel, according to an NBC4 report.
"I do not see any research validated concern to ban energy drinks or any other products at this time," said Dr. Arthur Manoukian of the LA City Personnel Dept.
The Los Angeles Police Department was asked to lead the effort on the possible ban and is expected to give a final report in about a month.
Also up for discussion is providing nutritional information to city workers about energy drinks.
“Recent studies have found that several brands of energy drinks contain larger amounts of caffeine than what is listed on their respective labels,” the motion states. “It should be noted that the FDA caps the amount of caffeine in soda at 0.02%, however there is no cap on the caffeine content of energy drinks.”
While the motion compares caffeine levels between energy drinks and sodas, canned coffee drinks, which ounce-for-ounce may contain more caffiene than energy drinks. are not mentioned.
One coffee drink commonly found in vending machines, Starbucks' Doubleshot Light Espresso Drink, contains 120 mg of caffeine per 6.5 fl. oz. serving.
A 16 fl. oz. can of Monster Energy Drink contains 160 mg of caffeine.
There was no vote at the meeting today. The committee plans to resume talks on the matter next month.
No U.S. city has regulated energy drinks, however the city of San Francisco has sued Monster Beverage Corp. claiming the drinks pose health risks and accusing the ocmpany of violating state law by misbranding its drinks and marketing them to minors.