July 31, 2013 - Washington, DC - Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, MD testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today and called for stricter controls on “energy drink” marketing practices. Earlier this year, Spencer sponsored legislation that was the first in the nation to restrict the marketing and sale of energy drinks.
A trained pediatric otolaryngologist and Vice President of the Suffolk County Medical Society, Dr. Spencer was the original drafter of the American Medical Association (AMA) resolution calling for control of the way energy drinks are being marketed to youth. The resolution had been discussed and passed by the Medical Society of the State of New York before being submitted to the AMA.
“It is disconcerting to hear that student athletes, kids in schools, kids that are in school playing, maybe even high school sports, believe that energy drinks somehow will make them perform better, because they will not,” said Dr. Spencer. “But this industry insists on calling their products energy drinks. They are not energy drinks. They give you a caffeine and sugar high and then you crash. They reduce your performance and add to fatigue….we are talking about protecting children from these negative health implications.”
Spencer added that he “would not advise any parent to give their child one cup of coffee, and never multiple cups. This is about the industry telling our children at a very young, very early age that it’s okay to drink these products because you’re going to feel great. These seemingly benign stimulants can be a precursor and gateway to using other drugs and alcohol. Vulnerable teenagers, once conditioned, will look for that next and better high feeling.”
Hundreds of thousands of physicians across the nation agree that these products have the potential to harm our children and that the deceptive marketing practices of the industry are placing children in peril. They contribute to addiction cycles of those who are vulnerable and take away parents’ power to make educated decisions about what their children should and can ingest, according to Spencer.
He asked the Committee to “consider restricting the marketing to children under 18 unless or until the products are proven to be safe and not habit forming.” Spencer also called for an education campaign to empower parents to make educated decisions for their children and even teach adults about the potential side effects they may experience as a result of choosing to indulge in these products.