Maryland may ban energy drinks for minors

(WJLA) - Maryland is considering banning minors from buying energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull.

The legislation, introduced by Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery County), follows the December 2011 death of 14-year-old Anais Fournier of Hagerstown. Toxicology reports determined Fournier died from cardiac arrhythmia brought on by toxic levels of caffeine, and in the 24-hours leading up to her death, Fournier consumed two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy.

"An enormous and rapidly growing market is developing around the sale of energy drinks to minors," said Del. Dumais. "At the same time, we have mounting evidence that the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants in these beverages are harmful to young people."

But the measure, which was announced last week, isn't without critics.

"It's not my responsibility to police who buys a Coca-Cola or a Monster Energy drink," Hillandale Shell gas station owner Jim Kurtz remarked. "I mean, where does this stop?"

Kurtz, who estimates he sells about $350 in energy drinks per week, says his frustration doesn't stem from potential lost profit, but rather from added regulation.

"If it's really that bad for you, take it out of the common distribution and put it in the Montgomery County liquor stores -- let them sell it," Kurtz added.

According to the Mayo Clinic, each 24-ounce can of Monster Energy contains 480 milligrams of caffeine -- that's the equivalent of about five eight-ounce cups of coffee, or about 14 cans of cola.

"It makes sense to me that, given the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that these products should never be consumed by children and adolescents, we consider banning the marketing and sale of energy drinks to minors," Del. Dumais added.

Despite labels on Red Bull and Monster Energy cans reading, "not recommended for children," many teenagers at Richard Montgomery High School told ABC7 that they want to maintain their independence.

"It should be the kids' choice, truthfully," junior Connor Einglefield said.

"While we're at it, let's also ban sodium, sugar and shutdown all of the 7-Elevens," sophomore Morgan Gregory quipped.

"Even though it's unhealthy, I don't think it's unhealthy enough, like with cigarettes and alcohol," junior Andrew Delvecchio stated.

The groundbreaking legislation has caused energy drink companies to pull out the boxing gloves too. Monster Beverage Corporation, which produces the widely popular Monster Energy line, contends it has sold 10 billion cans of liquid power worldwide, safely and ethically.

The Maryland House Economic Matters Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on March 7 at 1 p.m. in Annapolis.