Maryland bill would ban energy drink sales to kids
A bill was introduced in Maryland's General Assembly on Thursday that would ban the marketing and sale of energy drinks to minors, CNBC has learned.
If the bill were to become law, Maryland would be the first state with such a prohibition.
"The bill is modeled on existing legislation aimed at preventing tobacco marketing which targets minors," said Delegate Kathleen Dumais, who submitted the bill.
The penalty for a first offense would be a fine of up to $5,000. A second offense would result in a fine of $10,000 and a third in a fine of $20,000. In Maryland, anyone under 18 is considered a minor.
The Maryland bill comes amid lawsuits against energy drink maker Monster Beverages. Attorney Kevin Goldberg of the firm Goldberg Finnegan & Mester is suing the California-based company on behalf of four clients. One of the case involves a 14-year-old girl from Maryland.
In response to the lawsuits, Monster Beverages sent CNBC a statement saying, "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that Adverse Event Reports about a product do not mean that the reported event is caused by the product. The FDA has made it clear that it has not established any causal link between Monster energy drinks and the reports it has received."
Monster also pointed out that it has sold more than 10 billion drinks worldwide safely, adding, "There is no evidence that a Monster energy drink has caused or contributed to any injury whatsoever."
Dr. Kim Williams, vice president of the American College of Cardiology and chief of the cardiology division at Rush University in Chicago, told CNBC that it's too early to assess the safety of energy drinks.
"It took researchers decades to study the effects of cigarette smoking," he said. "More data is needed before we can really tell how energy drinks impact the heart."
Shares of Monster ended Thursday just above $68 a share. Despite Monster's legal problems and the Maryland bill, Wall Street still likes the stock.
Of the eight equity analysts who cover Monster, six rate the stock a buy, and one each a sell and a hold.
—By CNBC's Jason Gewirtz