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September 27. 2011 9:07AM

UNH reverses energy drink ban before it begins

DURHAM - The University of New Hampshire did an abrupt about face Monday night and decided to continue selling energy drinks, reversing a ban that had been announced only hours earlier.

UNH President Mark Huddleston issued a statement around 8:30 p.m. saying the school would delay the ban, citing “conflicting evidence about the health effects of consuming the beverages, as well as student reactions.”

“In this case, I am personally aware of conflicting reports about the caffeine and sugar content of some of these beverages, and I want to be sure we respect our students' ability to make informed choices about what they consume,” Huddleston said. “I have asked my colleagues to defer implementation of the intended ban until we can further explore the relevant facts and involve students more directly in our decision.”

Huddleston also said he wanted to know more about why students drink energy drinks before making a final decision.

Huddleston's statement was issued about nine hours after the school trumpeted the ban, one of the first at a college in the country, as part of its “commitment to health.” The ban was not set to go into effect until January.

The school said the drinks are full of caffeine and sugar and open to abuse by students, who may drink too much of it or mix it with alcohol with bad consequences. UNH also noted that a student had to be hospitalized earlier this school year after drinking too much energy drink, though in that case alcohol was not involved.

“These products, while legal and safe when consumed as intended, have been proven unsafe when overused or mixed with alcohol,” Assistant Vice President for Business Affairs David May said in the earlier statement. “Just recently there was an incident on campus involving energy drinks that helped send a student to the hospital. At UNH their sale accounts for just one half of one percent of our retail sales, and keeping our students safe and healthy is certainly worth much more than that.”

UNH said it sold about 60,000 energy drinks from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011, most of them during the school year.

The ban would have affected all UNH-run stores on campus, as well as university-permitted street carts, though students would have still been able to buy the drinks at stores off campus, several of which are just across the street.

Energy drinks are a popular mixer for many young people. They are chocked full of caffeine and sugar, leading them to dull the affects of alcohol when the two are combined, allowing a person to drink larger amounts and for a longer period of time. Some states have banned the sale of alcoholic energy drinks for that specific reason, but non-alcoholic energy drinks are legal and easy to buy in most places, including New Hampshire.

UNH also said drug and alcohol survey conducted in the spring found that a full 20 percent of UNH students reported combining alcohol and energy drinks in the previous 30 days.

Students also may consume energy drinks to help stay awake to study.


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