WASHINGTON — Four U.S. senators have sent letters to 17 energy drink manufacturers requesting that the companies adopt voluntary guidelines to avoid marketing their products to children.
In the letter, which was signed by Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, John D. Rockefeller of West Virginia, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the senators noted that at a hearing before the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on July 31 that medical professionals and public health officials raised concerns about the risks associated with the consumption of energy drink products by children and teenagers. The hearing also included specific examples of energy drink companies marketing their products to children.
“Across the board, makers of energy drinks say they do not market their products to children,” Mr. Durbin said. “But we know that energy drinks are promoted through social media, and that samples are often distributed at places where teens hang out — like sports events, concerts, local parks, and S.A.T. prep courses. The truth is that contrary to industry claims, energy drink companies are using highly effective tools to reach young people and it is working. It’s time for these companies to heed the advice of public health experts across the country and stop telling children and adolescents to ‘pound down’ their products.”
The senators are calling on the energy drink companies to adopt the American Beverage Association’s Guidance for the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks and voluntarily meet several other criteria such as not promoting the excessive consumption of energy drinks; removing past social media posts that promote the rapid consumption of energy drinks; and that manufacturers will not use language implying consumption of larger volumes of energy drinks or energy drinks with higher concentration of caffeine produces a more desirable effect.
“Energy drink makers must stop their slick pitches to kids, and adopt other reforms,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “They must take significant strides — more than the baby steps some accepted at our recent Commerce Committee hearing — to end marketing clearly aimed at children and teens. I commend the industry leaders for moving in the right direction, but most companies are continuing ad campaigns that use social media and sports and entertainment celebrities to target kids. Effective voluntary measures can help avoid legislative mandates.”
At the July 31 meeting, representatives from Red Bull, Monster Beverage Corp. and Rockstar Energy agreed to implement the A.B.A.’s voluntary energy drink marketing guidelines. Those three companies are included in the list of 17 that received the letter and are being asked to adopt the additional measures detailed in the letter. Other companies that received the Sept. 25 letter are the owners of brands such as 5-Hour Energy, AMP Energy, Arizona Energy, Celsius, Clif Shots, Crunk Energy, Full Throttle, Jamba Energy, Monster Energy, NOS Energy, Red Bull, Rockstar Energy, Sambazon Energy, Street King Energy, Target/Archer Farms Energy Drinks, Venom Energy, and Xenergy.In response, Maureen Beach, director of communications for the American Beverage Association, said, “Our members are responsible companies that care about their consumers, especially children and young adults, as demonstrated through existing policies and programs. While A.B.A. did not receive the letter, we’re always willing to work with elected officials on behalf of our industry to clear up any confusion regarding our products and their safety.”