The Associated Press April 21, 2010, 2:45PM ET

La. bill to ban energy drink sales to kids nixed

A proposed ban on the sale of energy drinks in Louisiana to children under the age of 16 was soundly rejected Wednesday by a Senate committee, likely scrapping the measure for the legislative session.

Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, said he offered the bill on behalf of a constituent who raised health concerns about the drinks and who calls the jolts of caffeine popular with teenagers and college students "speed in a can."

"This is way different than buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks," he told the Senate Commerce Committee.

Senators on the committee said the proposal went too far and improperly singled out one set of drinks when others are just as caffeinated.

"It gets to the point of where do we stop? We try to regulate and legislate everything," said Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette.

The committee shelved the bill without objection.

Manufacturers of the drinks say they are confident of the products' safety. Health experts are studying the possible risks of the highly caffeinated beverages.

A dietitian and researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Catherine Champagne, said the amount of caffeine contained in energy drinks can cause heart palpitations, restlessness, anxiety and even convulsions or seizures.

"One energy drink might not adversely affect someone, but what I have seen is there is a tendency to drink more and more of these during a day," Champagne said.

Adley's ban would have fallen on any drink -- except coffee -- that has at least five milligrams of caffeine per ounce.

Sen. Norby Chabert, D-Houma, said the bill could impact sales beyond energy drinks, banning some teas and other beverages with high levels of caffeine, and Chabert said that could damage business at convenience stores around the state.

Opponents included the Louisiana Beverage Association. Its executive director, Norman Ferachi, said caffeine is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as a "safe, multipurpose ingredient." He questioned if the target was an overuse of caffeine by young people, why didn't Adley include chocolate and coffee?

Adley countered that energy drinks can be a shot of caffeine ingested in a few seconds, compared to the caffeine in coffee, which he said is ingested in smaller amounts over time.

The argument didn't persuade the senators.

A similar bill that would ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under 18 also hasn't gain traction in Massachusetts.


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