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Los Angeles considering age restriction on energy drinks

4:24 PM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
Two cans of the 23.5 ounce 'Four Loko'(rear) malt liquor enery drink with a variety of stimulants and 12% alcohol available in a variety of fruit flavors are seen with other popular energy drinks '5-Hour Energy', 'Red Bull', and 'Spike'. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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(CBS NEWS) Los Angeles is mulling an age restriction for purchasing energy drinks due to the reported harms the caffeinated beverages can cause.

Councilman Bernard Parks filed a motion in the Los Angeles City Council on Monday to consider legislation that would educate people about the dangers of energy drinks, as well as make it harder for minors to purchase them, CBS Los Angeles reported.

The proposal calls for limiting energy drink sales to children and young teenagers, allowing only "behind the counter" sales of the drinks and an age requirement for purchase. The city would also look into joining current litigation against the makers of the most caffeinated energy drinks, which Parks argued is often marketed towards children.

In addition, the proposal would fund a campaign that would warn city employees about the health risks associated with drinking too many energy drinks.

Parks said he is concerned that many people who work long hours, like law enforcement or first responders, may be relying too much on the drinks and not realizing that it could be hurting them.

"If you're in this mode of drinking this energy drink, instead of eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you're using it to stay up for long periods of time, and you're not sleeping, you're in danger of injuring yourself and causing health problems," Parks said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "That's what we're concerned about."

Energy drinks have been linked to a number of adverse health events includingincreased blood pressure and changing heart rhythms. They have also been shown to significantly impact heart contraction rates within an hour of consuming the beverage.

The Food and Drug Administration started investigating five deaths and one heart attack linked to Monster Energy Drinks in Oct. 2012. The agency claimed that each 24-ounce can contained 240 milligrams of caffeine, or about seven times the amount found in a 12-ounce soda drink.

The agency has also been investigating 5-hour Energy drinks, which has been linked to 92 side effect reports including 33 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.

Several lawsuits were filed against Monster Beverage Corp. The mother of 19-year-old Alex Morris sued the company for his death, saying that her son died of cardiac arrest because he consistently drank the beverages. In Oct. 2012, the family of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued the beverage maker for her death as well. A coroner had said she died of cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity, meaning an electrical problem with the heart that may have caused it to beat too fast or too slow.

San Francisco also sued Monster Beverage, alleging the drinks contain too much caffeine and are marketed to minors. New York prosecutors announced in January they were joining San Francisco in a probe of Monster's marketing towards children.

Dr. Arthur Manoukian, Los Angeles' city medical director, said to the Los Angeles Daily News that energy drinks have not been proven to be dangerous. 

The American Beverage Association, which represents the non-alcoholic beverage industry, told CBS News in a statement that they too believed that most of the research purporting negative health issues was unfounded.

"Proposals to ban a safe, non-alcoholic beverage that contains significantly less caffeine than widely-consumed coffeehouse coffees are simply not grounded in facts or science," they said. "The goal of these discussions should be to educate our citizens so they are well-informed consumers -- not take away their choices."

Manoukian pointed out that most energy drinks just have two to three times the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or soda. The bigger problem is when people combine the drinks with alcohol, and there is no way to test if someone has been drinking them.

Experts issued a report in Feb. 2013 in Pediatrics in Review explaining that drinking energy drinks can cause insomnia, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, anxiety and obesity -- all of which could be made worse if the beverage was consumed alongside alcohol.

"My main problem is I don't see how we can monitor this," Manoukian said. "There are no tests for caffeine use."

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