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Posted by on May 7, 2008 in Health, Society | 2 comments

School Administrators Concerned Over Students Drinking Energy Drinks

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Many school administrators reportedly feel they now have a monster problem with students drinking highly-caffeinated energy drinks — and that’s no (red) bull.

Previous generations got their caffeine fix via coffee, tea or cola — but energy drinks are now big business with 20 somethings, teens and even students in middle schools. The Oregonian reports:

The rising popularity of so-called energy drinks is drawing concern among school administrators around the nation, with principals in other states also urging parents not to send their students to school with energy drinks. In mid-March, four eighth-graders in Broward County, Fla., were hospitalized after sipping energy drinks and then complaining of sweating and racing hearts.

Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the industry trade group American Beverage Association, said it makes sense for educators to communicate with families about consuming caffeinated drinks in moderation.

Patrice Radden, a Red Bull spokeswoman, said its product can be consumed at the same age that it is suitable to drink coffee. She said children are more sensitive to caffeine than adults and normally have plenty of energy and that the company doesn’t recommend its caffeinated products to caffeine-sensitive individuals.

Recommend, recoshmend. The problem is children getting ahold of the legal energy boost drinks that can be purchased at any 7-Eleven and going to school buzzing like a rockstar:

Teachers and administrators at Twality Middle School [in Tigard, Oregon] have seen something in the trash bins that has them worried: increasing numbers of empty energy drink cans.

Some teachers became so concerned, they e-mailed parents Friday pleading with them not to send their students to school with energy drinks. Administrators followed up with a letter Tuesday to all families in the 880-student school.

“The result is that some students are literally drunk on a caffeine buzz, or falling off a caffeine crash,” the e-mail said. While many energy drinks have the same caffeine, ounce for ounce, as strong coffee, the teachers wrote they found some students exchanging and accumulating cans and drinking as many as five cans a day.

But the concern isn’t only in Oregon.

In Florida:

Four teenagers from Falcon Cove Middle School in Weston were taken to a hospital emergency room this month, their hearts racing and their bodies dripping with sweat. The substance that sent them there was the energy and weight-loss drink Redline, which packs all the caffeine of coffee, and more: Its half-dozen added ingredients are claimed to lift mood and energy levels, lower appetite — even improve memory.

The temporary scare — the students are fine now — has Broward County, Fla., School Board members ready to ban high-octane energy drinks from school campuses.

“You see something like a 12-year-old drinking one of these, and it’s really scary,” board member Beverly Gallagher said at a recent meeting. Board members last week took the first steps toward putting Redline and drinks like it off-limits on campus. Students already cannot buy the beverages at school in Broward or Miami-Dade County, but they can bring them.


In Michigan:

Middle school is typically a high-energy environment, but the principal of Brighton’s Scranton Middle School is concerned about the health of students who are turning to energy drinks for an extra boost.

Scranton Principal Henry Vecchioni is asking parents not to send their students to school with energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull.

While there is nothing illegal about young people consuming the caffeine-laden beverages, health officials are raising serious concerns about what the high levels of caffeine and sugar can do to the body of a 12- or 13-year-old.

The large Broward County school district near Miami is considering a ban on energy drinks in schools and a state legislator in Rhode Island has introduced legislation that would ban the drinks from all school grounds, arguing that their use by students constitutes “substance abuse” and should be treated the same as alcohol and tobacco.

In Virginia:

If anyone is in need of some extra energy on a hot spring day, it’s the sprinters, midfielders and forwards at Westfield High School in Fairfax County, Va. But the one thing you won’t find here, or on any other school field in the county, is an energy drink, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

No Red Bull, no Monster. They’re all now banned for athletes.

“We’ve had a couple instances where athletes will have adverse reactions to the amount of caffeine or some ingredients,” says the school’s athletic trainer Roslyn Weise.

The county says several students, some in respiratory distress, had to be taken off the field by ambulance after consuming the energy drinks.

“A lot of them would get a terrible headache, and have difficulty concentrating, nausea, upset stomach,” Weise explains.

In New Jersey:

When Middle School Principal Joe Trybulsk saw children drinking so-called energy drinks before school, during lunchtime and after school, he sent home to parents a letter and made a schoolwide announcement, banning on all energy drinks,which he described as any drink that contains 50 milligrams or more of caffeine in a single serving, in combination with high amounts of sugar and/or “natural energy boosters” such as ephedrine, guarana and ginseng.

“Energy drinks may contain as much as 80 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of a cup of coffee, compared to the 37 milligrams of caffeine in a Mountain Dew or the 23 milligrams in a Coca-Cola Classic,” Trybulski said.

In fact, the issue of young people and energy drinks has blossomed enough so that the AP did an article about doctors’ concerns:

More than 500 new energy drinks launched worldwide this year, and coffee fans are probably too old to understand why.

Energy drinks aren’t merely popular with young people. They attract fan mail on their own MySpace pages. They spawn urban legends. They get reviewed by bloggers. And they taste like carbonated cough syrup.

Vying for the dollars of teenagers with promises of weight loss, increased endurance and legal highs, the new products join top-sellers Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar to make up a $3.4 billion-a-year industry that grew by 80 percent last year.

Thirty-one percent of U.S. teenagers say they drink energy drinks, according to Simmons Research. That represents 7.6 million teens, a jump of almost 3 million in three years.

Nutritionists warn that the drinks, laden with caffeine and sugar, can hook kids on an unhealthy jolt-and-crash cycle. The caffeine comes from multiple sources, making it hard to tell how much the drinks contain. Some have B vitamins, which when taken in megadoses can cause rapid heartbeat, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

But the biggest worry is how some teens use the drinks. Some report downing several cans in a row to get a buzz, and a new study found a surprising number of poison-center calls from young people getting sick from too much caffeine.

On the other hand, there is the issue of generational shifts.

Once upon a time, coffee was the buzz drink for adults only. But today it’s no big deal to see teens or pre-teens with their parents sipping latte in Starbucks.

Caffeinated soft drinks such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Doctor Pepper are all guzzled by kids and part of the American way of life.

Is the energy drink the coffee of the future to new generations? Or, rather, is it right now?

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