EDITORIAL: The bull and the buzz

A single can of Red Bull or even Monster falls within Health Canada guidelines for caffeine consumption for older teens but what happens if two or more are drunk in a day? Teens may then face some of the health concerns that adults face when they drink too much coffee.

Insomnia, anxiety, allergic reactions, palpitations and withdrawal. Is this a list of symptoms from an illegal drug? No, it’s what adults have known for years are the downsides of drinking too much coffee and tea.

Unfortunately, now the kids are emulating their parents by drinking energy drinks that typically have twice the caffeine of regular pop and just about as much as a cup of drip coffee. The kids think these drinks are cool, their logos are eye-catching and they are easy to get at corner stores and grocery outlets.

A single can of Red Bull or even Monster falls within Health Canada guidelines for caffeine consumption for older teens but what happens if two or more are drunk in a day? Teens may then face some of the health concerns that adults face when they drink too much coffee (see above).

Should the government have taken a tougher stance and prevented these drinks from being sold anywhere but pharmacies? It’s hard to say. The more adults try to regulate teen behaviour, the more challenges they face. And the fact that caffeine is mildly addictive is not lost on companies marketing their products to kids in new and innovative ways. The popularity of these beverages among teens looking for a light buzz is reminiscent of the older generations’ interest in cigarettes.

For teens, water is just plain boring, pop is old-school and so is juice, although neither are great as they are typically full of sugar.

Of course, energy drinks are not as bad as cigarettes and legions of adults are drinking caffeinated beverages without too many side effects.

But are we comfortable with kids picking up an energy drink at lunch or on the way home from school? Probably not.

At the very least, parents should be educating themselves as to what their children are ingesting. Health Canada’s suggested limits for daily caffeine intake are roughly 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight. This guideline will mean little or nothing to the average kid looking for a bit of a buzz and acceptance among his peers. But parents can at least use the new content disclosure rules to find out whether their kids’ drinks measure up.