The City Hill Middle School science team is heading back to Hartford May 15 to talk to Governor Lamont and lobby legislators about the dangers of energy drinks for kids.
On February 7, six 7th-graders testified in front of the Children’s Committee in Hartford in support of a bill they helped State Representative Liz Linehan write. The bill is House Bill #7007, a bill that would prohibit the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16.
Here is a link to the bill: HB 7007
Luke Deitelbaum read a testimony letter written by all 6 students that explained, in great detail, why these 6 students felt this bill should be passed. It included the top 3 harmful ingredients with their most common side effects, as well as documented cases of child deaths connected to the consumption of energy drinks. They also provided the committee with additional evidence of the various ingredients in energy drinks and their harmful effects and the resources in which they found all the data they provided. Amy Morrissey then fielded questions from the committee to clarify the information they presented. Sahira Rivera, Sean Davino, Ciana Chirkout and Emily Fine also stood with their classmates at the hot seat in support of the letter they helped draft.
After the students testified, there were other people that came out to testify for, and against, this bill. We had the opportunity to hear testimony from someone who was there to testify for a different bill speak up in favor of our bill. There was also a letter of testimony from the Director-Advocacy Resources from the UCONN Rudd Center that wrote an extensive letter of support of this bill. There were two gentlemen that testified against our bill. One was the Director of Public Affairs for the Red Bull Company and the other a medical doctor that serves as a consultant and represents the American Beverage Association. Both gentlemen tried to tell the committee that the drinks were safe and gave statistics that went against the research our students provided. Several committee members challenged their testimony and used evidence from our students’ research (even quoting the resources and deeming them credible) to refute these lobbyists.
The committee members not only gave our students a round of applause after their testimony, but Co-Chairs Representative Liz Linehan, Senator Mary Abrams, and another committee member Representative Noreen Kokoruda spoke up and gave students tremendous amounts of praise for their poise, research, and presence at the public hearing. Students also met with Naugatuck’s Rosa Rebimbas and Senator Joan Hartley to talk about their bill and receive their praise as well.
You can watch the students' testimony here: Connecticut Network. Skip to the 1-hour mark.
In December, Representative Linehan not only fielded questions from our students on the legislative process, but she also explained that sometimes bills fail, but that doesn't mean we should give up and not do some good on behalf of our cause. One student suggested we create an informational pamphlet that could be available in pediatric offices. Rep. Linehan targeted that idea and is working with us to create one. The first draft is attached. We already have the Pediatric Associates of Waterbury wanting to offer our pamphlet.
Unfortunately, the bill was two votes shy of passing to the House, so instead of allowing the bill to die, Rep. Linehan opted to hold the vote. The two voters needed to pass have said they need more information before they change their vote. This delay will allow us to gather more data to support the need for this bill and hopefully get it passed next year. The areas of concern are connected to child consumption and parent awareness. We are working with Rep. Linehan to create a parent survey that would gather data on parent awareness. Jetmir Dauti, a Civics student at Naugatuck High School, is partnering with the CHMS students for his Civics project and creating a student survey to gather data on how many students actually purchase the energy drinks and if they have ever experienced any symptoms as a result. These two surveys will be distributed to middle school and high school students, as well as parents in Naugatuck. Wolcott has also volunteered to distribute the surveys to their district and we are working on getting other districts to participate as well.
The experience our students have had did not end with a visit to the Capitol. They were featured in the Republican American, as well as written about in CTNewsJunkie.com.
We were also contacted by journalist Sarah Talpos from the scientific journal Undark which is affiliated with MIT and has featured in Scientific American. She interviewed our students via Skype and the article will be published in a few weeks.