Ky. Bill would ban energy drink sales to minors


Kentucky youths may have to turn to another source for their morning caffeine jolt if the state’s legislature passes a bill introduced Friday that would ban energy drink sales to minors.

Beverage and convenience store industry professionals say the proposed bill unfairly targets energy drinks and would create an undue burden on convenience stores. But State Rep. Danny Ford (R-Mt. Vernon) said he introduced the bill “for the safety of the children.”

Energy drink companies target sales at 18-30 year-olds; teens often drink them as well.

Ford said a student from Brodhead, Ky., inspired the bill when he related his experience with an energy drink for a contest called “It ought to be a law.”

“This young man bought an energy drink on the way to school one morning,” Ford said. “He had a situation that his heart started beating rapidly and he had a bad experience with it.”

If passed, the law would join a series of political and regulatory actions concerning energy drinks worldwide.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments is considering forcing companies to label energy drinks as potentially harmful if used in excess, and both Denmark and France have long banned Red Bull.

Ford said he researched energy drinks and found that some contained as much as three times the caffeine as a cup of coffee. Tom Davis, technical director of Hansens Beverage Company, the makers of Monster, disagreed with Ford’s findings.

“Coffee – especially the coffee that’s sold in any store – has more caffeine per ounce. than a Monster energy drink does,” Davis said.

Davis, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said one 12 oz. cup of Starbucks coffee can contain as much 3-4 cans of Monster.

“If they want to legislate caffeine, they should start with coffee,” Davis said.

Jeff Lenard, the vice president for communications for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said the bill would place a greater burden on convenience store clerks.

“Convenience stores are already conducting more age-verification checks than probably any other channel,” Lenard said.

Tyler Benedict, president and CEO of Source Beverages, makers of Burn energy drink, said the bill’s definition of “energy drink” could create an additional burden for clerks.

The bill defines an energy drink as “a carbonated beverage that exceeds a caffeine content of 71 milligrams per 12 oz. serving and contains taurine and glucuronolactone,” which would fail to include juice-based energy drinks, and energy drinks without taurine or glucuronolactone. Benedict said that would leave clerks to determine which drinks are not covered by the law.

Ford said that definition could be subject to change as the bill proceeds through the Kentucky General Assembly.

Currently, he said, it has been introduced and assigned to the health and welfare committee, but has yet to be heard there.