June 18 (Reuters) - The American Medical Association on Tuesday said it would support a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children under 18, saying the high-caffeine beverages could cause heart problems and other health issues.
The policy was adopted in a vote at the group's annual meeting in Chicago.
"Energy drinks contain massive and excessive amounts of caffeine that may lead to a host of health problems in young people, including heart problems, and banning companies from marketing these products to adolescents is a common sense action that we can take to protect the health of American kids," Dr. Alexander Ding, an AMA board member, said in a statement.
The group noted the stimulant drinks have surged in popularity in recent years especially among high school and college students.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October said it was investigating reports of five deaths that may be associated with Monster Beverage Corp's top-selling energy drink, called Monster.
The American Beverage Association said it was disappointed in the AMA resolution. It said most energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.
"Leading energy drink companies also voluntarily display total caffeine amounts - from all sources - on their packages, as well as an advisory statement indicating that the product is not intended (or recommended) for children, pregnant or nursing women, or persons sensitive to caffeine," Maureen Beach, a spokeswoman for the group, said in an emailed statement.
The drinks, with aggressive-sounding names like Monster, Red Bull, AMP and Full Throttle, are the fastest-growing type of soft drink in the United States, with sales up 17 percent last year to about $9 billion, according to Beverage Digest. They are often associated with extreme sports, which makes them popular among young men.