BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Lori McHughes calls energy drinks, those jolts of caffeine popular with teenagers and college students, "speed in a can." And she wants restrictions on who can buy them in Louisiana.
Lawmakers will consider the idea of a ban on the sale of the drinks to anyone under the age of 16, after McHughes' health concerns about the beverages persuaded state Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, to propose the prohibition.
McHughes, who lives in Bossier Parish, blamed the collapse of her 15-year-old son on his mixture of a Red Bull drink with another called an "energy shot." After he ingested the highly caffeinated combination on his way to summer camp last year, McHughes said her son broke into a sweat, felt his heart beating rapidly and passed out.
"He got sick as a dog. He could have had an underlying heart condition. That could have killed him," she said Thursday. She added, "What gives these merchants the right to sell my child speed in a can?"
Manufacturers of the drinks say they are confident of the products' safety. Health experts are studying the possible risks of the highly caffeinated beverages.
A spokesperson for Red Bull didn't immediately return a request for comment Thursday about Adley's bill or McHughes' complaints.
The proposed ban — to be considered in the legislative session that starts March 29 — would prohibit the sale of the energy drinks to anyone younger than 16, calling it an unfair trade practice. Anyone found in violation could face a fine or civil penalty.
The ban would fall on any drink — except coffee — that has at least five milligrams of caffeine per ounce.
A similar bill that would ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under 18 has yet to gain traction in Massachusetts.
Adley said the measure will create discussion about the health concerns surrounding the drinks, which he said aren't sold to children under the age of 12.
"I don't know if the drinks are harmful or not, but I know (McHughes) felt so strongly about it that I filed a bill and said, 'We'll find out if they do harm or not,'" he said.