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News Opinion Readers Respond

I lost my daughter to energy drinks [Letter]

I'd like to address some of Michelle Minton's comments directed at the bills aimed to ban energy drinks to minors ("No one cards at Starbucks," Feb. 27).

First of all, to say that these bills are "knee jerk legislation based on anecdotal evidence and sensational news headlines" is simply untrue. These drinks not only contain large amounts of caffeine but also contain other ingredients with stimulant properties. Also, let's clarify that the caffeine listed on cans of energy drinks is a food additive. It is not the naturally occurring caffeine that comes in your coffee or tea. If you want evidence, all one has to do is contact the National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, etc., and they can provide the information.

Excessive caffeine consumption can result in tachycardia, vomiting, seizures, arrhythmia and death. The average 16-ounce can of energy drink contains approximately 160 milligrams of caffeine. That would be considered excessive caffeine by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends no more than 100 mg a day for adolescents.

Secondly, Ms. Minton points out that, like any food or beverage, energy drinks could be harmful in large enough quantities. Well, if my child overindulges in candy, or potato chips, the worst outcome will probably be an upset stomach or vomiting, not death!

Lastly, let me get to the increased costs to the businesses. I'm sure all these concerns and complaints were made when this had to be done for alcohol and tobacco. But, those laws were passed regardless. And why? Because protecting our kids is the right thing to do and should trump everything else. I agree it's the parents' and educators' responsibilities to help children make good decisions. But they are still children. If they had the capacity to make rational decisions 100 percent of the time, they would be permitted to vote, drink alcohol and smoke tobacco products.

One final note. I have never allowed any of my three children to drink energy drinks. But my kids still wanted the shirts, hats and other merchandise with the logos because all of their friends were wearing them. I still said no. But it's so hard for kids since this industry targets them. They sponsor their favorite concerts, athletes and so on. It's Joe Camel and the tobacco industry all over again.

So I offer my last piece of evidence, which is my 14-year-old daughter's death certificate. She died on Christmas Eve, 2011 from a cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity. This was a result of drinking energy drinks (not more than the recommended amount stated on the so-called warning label) while at the mall with her girlfriends.

My daughter was not the first casualty of energy drinks, and, unfortunately, hasn't been the last. So, Ms. Minton, as you can see this worst case scenario is genuine. But I wouldn't expect someone who is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute to have any other viewpoint. When a non-profit organization like yours gets their contributions from the tobacco industry, and companies that manufacture energy drinks, like Coca-Cola, what more could we expect?

Wendy Crossland, Hagerstown

To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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