CHICAGO – The American Medical Association voted to work to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and to support a ban of marketing high stimulant/caffeine drinks to people under age 18 during its annual meeting in Chicago in June.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture program, SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families.

“The A.M.A. is working to improve the nation’s health care outcomes, particularly cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are often linked to obesity,” said Ardis D. Hoven, M.D., president of the A.M.A. “Removing sugar-sweetened beverages from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will help encourage healthier beverage choices.”

The A.M.A. said health advocates are concerned about the use of stimulant drinks among adolescents because of excessive amounts of caffeine.

“Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids,” said Alexander Ding, M.D., A.M.A. board member.

The American Beverage Association, Washington, did not comment to Food Business News. In a Reuters news report the association said it was disappointed in the A.M.A. decision and that most energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.

“Leading energy drink companies also voluntarily display total caffeine amounts — from all sources — on their packages, as well as an advisory statement indicating that the product is not intended (or recommended) for children, pregnant or nursing women, or persons sensitive to caffeine,” Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for the A.B.A., said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters.