Energy Drinks Targeted

Some cities, including Chicago, and schools are considering a ban on energy drinks. According to Ed Burke, the alderman who has proposed the ban in Chicago, “This is an issue that’s starting to resonate around the country.” A study cited by Burke from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that visits to the emergency room caused by energy drinks rose from about 10,000 annually in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration is looking at energy drinks as a potential cause of fatalities. Energy drinks might contain as much as 242 milligrams of caffeine or as little as 6 milligrams of caffeine for a decaf version. By comparison, a cup of coffee typically contains 100 milligrams of caffeine. Amounts in coffee will vary according to how it’s prepared.

Some critics have attacked Burke’s proposal, saying the proposed regulation would just be one more attack on civil rights and would represent unnecessary oversight. “I’ve heard some of the ‘nanny arguments’ being raised,” Burke says. “That’s the same thing they argued 20 years ago when I was arguing for a smoking ban.” Smoking bans have proven to be one of several effective ways to cut smoking rates and improve public health.

We’ll see where Burke’s proposal takes us. A hearing in early March generated a lot of buzz, plenty of work for lobbyists, and no action. Regardless of this proposal’s ultimate fate, Chicago won’t be the first. A 180-milligram cap on caffeine content in energy drinks took effect in Canada on January 2.

Click here to read more in USA Today, here to read more at, and here to read the SAMHSA report on ER visits involving energy drinks.

Weird Tales illustration (1941) by Wayne Francis Woodard / Wikimedia

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