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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Within hours, UNH bans energy drinks, then doesn’t

University of New Hampshire officials can’t seem to make up their minds about energy drinks.

In an odd turn of events, UNH President Mark Huddleston announced Monday night that he was delaying a decision made by the university earlier in the day to ban the sale of energy drinks on campus. Huddleston’s announcement was sent out just before 8:30 last night, nine hours after the school sent out a press release announcing the ban.

Monday morning, UNH media relations sent out a press release announcing the decision to restrict the sale of energy drinks in retail and vending locations campus, citing a survey conducted last spring that found 20 percent of UNH students reported mixing alcohol and energy drinks during the last 30 days.

The ban was set to take effect in January.

“We felt it was important to support Healthy UNH and the president’s commitment to make our campus the healthiest in the country,” David May, assistant vice president for business affairs, said in the press release. “These products, while legal and safe when consumed as intended, have been proven unsafe when overused or mixed with alcohol.”

May noted a recent incident on the UNH campus involving energy drinks that led to a student being hospitalized. May said the sale of energy drinks accounts for one half percent of the school’s total retail sales “and keeping our students safe and healthy is certainly worth much more than that.”

Apparently, Huddleston did not agree. Later in the day, the university’s president issued a statement that the decision would be delayed. He cited conflicting evidence about the health effects of consuming energy drinks, as well as student reactions to the decision.

“I respect the efforts of the staff in UNH dining to present the healthiest possible choices in our food service and vending locations,” said Huddleston. “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. 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 said he wanted more data about usage patterns among UNH students before making a final decision on the availability of energy drinks on campus.