American Medical Association Endorses Ban on Energy Drink Marketing to Minors

In its annual meeting held on Tuesday, the policy-making arm of the American Medical Association (AMA) voted to endorse a ban on the marketing of energy drinks and shots to people under the age of 18.* The decision comes after several rumor-filled days in which the AMA, which represents approximately 225,000 U.S. physicians, was said to be readying its formal opposition to the sale of energy drinks to minors.

The AMA cited the rise in consumption of energy drinks, particularly among high school and college students, and growing concerns by health advocates about potential risks and illness associated with excessive consumption of caffeine as the chief reasons for its decision.

“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,” AMA board member Alexander Ding, M.D. said in a statement.

Despite sustained popularity of energy products, marketers and manufacturers of the products have faced intense criticism from local and federal legislators and some consumer advocates who contend that the highly-caffeinated beverages are unsafe. Many are calling for warning labels on energy drink packaging about possible risks when consuming the products, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.

However, the American Beverage Association (ABA), a beverage industry trade group, said that  many beverage companies are already doing enough to make consumers aware about caffeine content and risks to minors. In a brief statement to Bloomberg Businessweek, Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for the ABA, expressed frustration with the AMA’s decision.

“We are disappointed that the American Medical Association passed this resolution,” said Beach. “Leading energy drink companies also voluntarily display total caffeine amounts — from all sources — on their packages, as well as an advisory statement indicating that the product is not intended (or recommended) for children.”

*NOTE: Based on initial American Medical Association statements, an earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated that the organization had voted on a resolution to endorse a ban on the marketing and sale of energy drinks to minors. The resolution endorsed a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to minors. The title of the resolution contains the words “Banning the Marketing and Sale” of such drinks to minors, but the policy text does not contain the word “sale” or endorse a ban on such sales. Following questions from BevNET and other media organizations, the AMA amended its public statements to indicate that the purpose of the resolution is to endorse a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to minors.