Minton: Chicago adults could be forced to give up energy drinks
Are adults responsible enough to choose whether or not to consume energy drinks? Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke doesn’t seem to think so. He introduced a proposal recently to prohibit sales of highly caffeinated energy drinks to anyone in Chicago, regardless of their age. Lawmakers in Chicago and elsewhere have sought similar bans only for minors and young adults. Burke’s proposal shocked many and has some asking, who has the right to tell adults what they can or can’t drink?
Burke’s ban proposal, perhaps an exercise in one-upmanship, follows a similar idea floated by Health Committee Chairman George Cardenas last month to ban energy drink sales to those under age 21. Cardenas called his proposal a conversation starter intended to bring attention to the alleged dangers posed by energy drinks. Burke seems to be engaging in that conversation, but taking it to an undesirable conclusion.
In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released data on adverse event reports since 2004 for three of the most popular energy drinks on the market. The reports, filed by consumers or their doctors, detail some serious and sometimes life-threatening health problems, including convulsions, heart attacks, and death after consuming energy drinks. Some of the reports are of mild events like sneezing, throat irritation, and crying. What none of these reports show is evidence linking any of the users’ health problems to the consumption of energy drinks. According to the FDA’s own statement, the reports do not prove that the drinks were the cause of or even related to the health events.
Yet, that didn’t stop some Chicago Aldermen from proposing knee-jerk bans in the city, nor did it stop Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) from calling for a ban on the sale of energy drinks nationwide. While these lawmakers may believe the drinks are harmful, there is no real evidence to support their belief.
Even if there were some connection between energy drinks and health problems, one one would expect to see many more than the 145 adverse events reported to the FDA, 18 of which were deaths (one of those was a suicide), considering the millions of cans sold in the U.S. every year.
Moreover, while there have been recent reports of a spike in energy drink-related hospitalizations, those numbers are more likely a result of increasing media attention and the likelihood of people consuming energy drinks at the time of their hospitalization being counted toward the total. The increasing popularity of mixing energy drinks with alcohol is bound to lead to a greater number of hospitalizations in which energy drink consumption is involved, regardless of the drinks’ inherent qualities or actual role in the patient’s hospitalization. Meanwhile, reports about the supposed dangers of energy drinks may prompt patients and doctors to report their use more than in previous years.