Energy Drink Ban? What’s Next?

Lynne Nowick, a legislator in Suffolk County, New York, wants to ban energy drinks for anyone under the age of 19 years old. Why? She says it’s because the drinks “could potentially be dangerous to teens” and some parents don’t know the risks. She seems to believe that it is her duty to assess the risks and make the decision for teens and their parents. After all, nanny state knows best, right?

According to a “nutrition expert,” whatever that means, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension: “Energy drinks can cause sleeplessness and high blood pressure in teens.”

Personally, government sticking its nose into my morning coffee gets my blood boiling and keeps me up at night; perhaps we can ban government bans for a while.

During the Four Loko/alcoholic energy drink row of last month, some made “what next?” jokes, asking if the government would try to ban energy drinks altogether. It was a joke that I and most of my colleagues shied away from because we knew that it was a very real possibility. This is one reason we fight so vehemently against any kind of regulatory restriction on consumer products; once you have given government the power to regulate and ban products, it is difficult to draw the line.

First it’s alcohol, then it’s alcoholic energy drinks, then it’s energy drinks… what’s next? In a statement, the American Beverage Association, which represents energy drink companies, stated: “To be consistent, coffeehouses would have to start carding customers before serving them coffee.”

They may have been facetious, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the next step could be a limit on caffeine consumption for everyone. There is no science that shows energy drinks, when used in moderation, adversely affect the health of consumers. Once we let regulators limit how much of a “potentially dangerous” food item teens or anyone can ingest, we give away the right to make that decision for ourselves.

Even if a product does have some adverse side effect — whether it’s energy drinks, alcohol, or coffee — it should up to each individual to weigh the costs and benefits of the good and bad effects and decide for him or herself whether it’s worth it or not. This appears to be the bottom of a very slippery slope, but I assure you it can go further downhill from here.

Image credit: z3taa’s flickr photostream.