Walk into any Starbucks and you’ll see scores of happy, soon-to-be wired people ordering venti coffees and pumpkin spice lattes.
These venti coffees, packing 415 mg of caffeine, and pumpkin lattes, packing 440 calories–which are as popular with kids as they are with adults–aren’t in the crosshairs of Chicago Alderman Ed Burke. (Yet).
But energy drinks are.
Shortly after his fellow aldermen proposed banning the sale of energy drinks to kids in Chicago, Burke proposed a ban on high-caffeine energy drink sales to adults.
These drinks include any “canned or bottled beverage which contains an amount of caffeine exceeding or equal to 180 milligrams-per-container and containing Taurine or Guarana.”
Under that definition, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, many drinks would be banned. A regular 5-Hour Energy, which has 138 mg of caffeine, would apparently still be legal. But its slightly more potent big brother, Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy, with 207 mg, would not.
That’s exactly half the caffeine of our venti coffee friend.
And the calories? 5-Hour Energy has 99 percent fewer calories than the tasty pumpkin latte.
Speaking of calories, while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is targeting obesity by attacking vending machines that sell candy bars, Burke’s focused on:
- The “alarming rate” of teen consumption of energy drinks.
- The fact that these products can “avoid (some) federal regulation” because they’re branded as dietary supplements.
Politicians such as Burke might try to scare people–through all-to-willing reporters–into believing energy drinks are dangerous. Countless reporters were gleeful last year to proclaim that the 2-oz 5-Hour Energy shot was mentioned “in association” with about 30 serious conditions such as heart attacks since 2009, and “may have led” to some 13 deaths since 2009.
Stop the presses!
What isn’t told are the adverse side effects of coffee. Anxiety disorders! Cardiac disorders! Uterine bleeding! Suicidal and self-injurious behavior! Wow!
In addition, the FDA said the following:
The filing of an incident report with the F.D.A. does not mean that a product was responsible for a death or an injury or contributed in any way to it. Such reports can be fragmentary in nature and difficult to investigate.
What ever happened to common sense? You gulp five 5-Hour Energies…or Monsters…or Full Throttles…and you might very well experience serious problems, just as you would gulping five coffees. And Starbucks doesn’t have warning labels like energy drinks do.
Take all energy drinks in moderation. I take one 5-Hour Energy in the morning instead of coffee. No jitters (like I feel with coffee). I also feel the rush of B vitamins. Most everything in these shots are substances you’d find in multivitamins. And this Taurine that Burke is so afraid of, a substance popularized by Red Bull years ago, is naturally found in seafood and meat.
We could continue jibber-jabbering about why it’s pointless to ban energy drinks. We could continue comparing the dangers of these products to the dangers of just about anything.
But that’s not the point. The point is, why do so many politicians think it’s their duty to intervene in personal life choices as mundane as how we get our caffeine fix?
The problem, I think, part of it at least, is the length to which they’re in power. Mayor Bloomberg unleashed a tidal wave of Nanny State destruction since being elected to his third term.
Burke, meanwhile, has been on the Chicago City Council since 1969! When this lifelong politician was first elected, the disposable lighter hadn’t been invented.
You gotta think one gets more emboldened, more mired in the weeds, and more sheltered from reality when on that high of a stage for so long.
There are many Burkes in power today. For whatever reason, they have it in their heads that energy drinks are some massive societal problem and that they should correct citizens’ behaviors by taking away freedom of choice:
- The Suffolk County Legislature in New York is considering banning the sale of energy drinks to anyone under age 19.
- As of Jan. 1, 2012, if you make or sell caffeinated beer in California, you’re breaking the law.
- In 2011, Kentucky Rep. Danny Ford proposed to outlaw sales to anyone under 18.
Burke said Chicago will become the first city to ban energy drinks. He dismissed criticisms that the ordinance is overreaching.
“I heard it 20 years ago when I introduced the first ordinance to ban smoking in Chicago,” Burke told CBS Chicago. “I heard the argument (then) that you shouldn’t regulate peoples’ conduct.”
And, judging by readers’ comments on these stories, he’s still hearing them.
The only way to get politicians like Burke to listen is to vote them out.