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Editorial: Chill out on energy drink ban

Ald. Ed Burke (14th)  | Sun-Times file photo

Ald. Ed Burke (14th) | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:42AM

The Chicago City Council has not been hesitant to ban things. In recent years, the Council has banned or proposed banning foie gras, metal bats, outdoor cigarette and alcohol billboards, small plastic bags, chickens, spray paint, meat treated with carbon dioxide to make it look more appealing, french fries, trans fats, candy-flavored cigarettes, baby bottles and sippy cups made with bisphenol A, airline-sized liquor bottles, cigarette machines and even elephants at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Against that background, Ald Edward M. Burke’s (14th) proposal to ban the sale and distribution of high-energy drinks isn’t surprising. But in this instance, the Council should ignore its usual urge to proscribe something and let people make up their own minds about what to drink.

Cynics might suspect this proposed ban is a piece of “fetcher” legislation, a measure drawn up for the sole purpose of inviting those with an interest in blocking a ban to shower favors on lawmakers, thus inducing them to forget the whole thing. The cynics might note that Burke has proposed other bans in the past that went nowhere.

We prefer to believe that Burke has more elevated motivations — trying to help Chicagoans, especially teens, avoid high-caffeine drinks that can be dangerous. His ordinance states that one of the drinks that would be covered, Monster Energy, has been linked to at least five deaths since 2009.

Burke has grounds for concern. A new government report says energy drinks can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat and seizures and suggests the number of people — mostly teens and young adults — going to emergency rooms nationwide after downing energy drinks has doubled in four years. The beverage industry maintains the drinks are safe.

Two senators are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to investigate energy drinks and their ingredients. That sounds like a better plan. This is a job for the FDA, not the City Council.

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