AMA Mulling Endorsement of Marketing Ban on Energy Drinks

American Medical Association's "bully pulpit" could sway policy if resolution passes

CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association (AMA) may endorse sales and advertising bans of "high-energy/stimulant drinks" to young people under age 18, pending more scientific study about health risks, said a Forbes report.

A debate schedule for this weekend by the AMA's policy-making House of Delegates comes amid intensifying scrutiny of energy drinks, which are popular particularly among young adults who get a boost from caffeine and other ingredients in the beverages.

A resolution from the New York State Medical Society that will be discussed at this year's annual AMA meeting in Chicago cites an increase in emergency room visits the physicians said was "linked to the consumption of 'stimulant' drinks." Doctors have also cited probes like that of the New York State Attorney General's investigation into drink makers that include Monster Beverage Corp. and PepsiCo Inc.

A source close to the deliberations told CSP Daily News that any such marketing ban would not become policy unless the House of Delegates approved it, and that it could amend the language or reject the entire proposal.

Though any action by the AMA's policy-making House of Delegates has no legal authority over the sale of energy drinks, the national doctor's group has a "bully pulpit" on public health issues, said the report. The AMA is also considered a powerful lobby in Washington and in state capitols across the county where it holds sway when it comes to medical policy and health regulations.

"The popularity of stimulant drinks has increased markedly in recent years with sales increasing 240% from 2004 to 2009, with further data indicating that these drinks are consumed by 30 to 50% of children, adolescents, and young adults," the New York delegation to the AMA House of delegates said in its resolution cited by Forbes. "Studies have shown that high 'stimulant' drinks contain excessive amounts of caffeine with one can having the equivalent of up to 50 cups of coffee. Excessive caffeine can cause adverse effects such as dizziness, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, GI disturbances, myocardial infarction and death."

Any push by the AMA would meet resistance from drink makers, the report said.

Monster, for example, earlier this year has fought back against curbs on sales of its drinks such as a suit it filed against the San Francisco City Attorney this spring.

The resolution regarding energy drinks is among dozens that will be debated at the AMA's 524-member House of Delegates, which convenes Saturday to Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Aside from endorsing a ban on such drinks, AMA delegates are also pushing for more scientific study of energy drinks, said the report.