New legislation approved by the Suffolk County Legislature would prohibit the sale of energy drinks at county-run parks and beaches to those under the age of 18, while also limiting direct marketing efforts of these products to minors.
Sponsored by Legis. William Spencer, D-Centerport, the bill was approved on Monday and as of press time awaits the signature of County Executive Steve Bellone.
"Far too many people are unaware of the effects excessive caffeine consumption can have on the body," Spencer said. "Excessive consumption of caffeine can aggravate pre-existing conditions and contribute to a variety of health problems. My plan levels the playing field and will create an open and fair dialogue about these products so parents and children can decide whether or not to ingest these drinks."
Concession stands at county-owned parks including Cedar Point Beach in East Hampton, Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays and Smith Point County Park in Shirley will be permitted to stock popular energy beverages, but not sell them to minors. Similar limitations will affect four county-owned golf courses.
Spencer said special event vendors that sell food or drinks at various summer events at county parks would also be prevented from selling stimulant drinks to those who are underage.
The legislation also prevents energy drink companies from marketing to minors by providing free samples or coupons. Spencer said his 12-year-old son has received direct mailings containing coupons for well-known stimulant drinks like Red Bull and Monster.
Energy drink manufacturers will also be prohibited from offering samples to children at sports tournaments, concerts or other special events held anywhere throughout Suffolk.
In addition, the legislation establishes "The Truth About Stimulant Drinks" program, which asks students at the middle school and high school levels to participate in a competition to create a public safety announcement on the dangers of energy drinks. The winning PSA will be aired on a local cable television channel.
Spencer is calling his bill the "nation's first comprehensive energy/stimulant education and protection plan." An earlier version of the bill, introduced in 2010 by Legis. Lynne Nowick, R-St. James, proposed banning the sale of energy drinks to anyone age 19 or younger.