School Council Federation wants age restriction put on power drinks
The province’s School Councils Federation wants to see a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.
BY DENISE PIKE
The province’s Federation of School Councils would like to see a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16. The availability of the cans of pick-meups was one of the issues raised during the seventh annual Atlantic Caucus meeting of the Home and School/School Council Federations in St. John’s, Oct. 17, 18. Representatives from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador participated in the meeting.
According to the Federation vice-president John Smith, the caucus felt children under 16 should not be able to purchase energy drinks.
“ There are many health risks associated with energy drinks and they should be regulated in the same manner as buying cigarettes,” says Smith. “No child should be able to just walk into a store and buy and consume as many of these drink as they want.”
Boost of energy
Energy drinks such as (Red Bull, Impulse Energy Drink, Dark Dog, Shark, Hype Energy, Red Rain, Red Dragon, Diablo and YJ Stinger)are meant to supply mental and physical stimulation for a short period of time. The drinks typically contain high sugar and caffeine levels and the promise to greatly boost a person’s energy level.
Many people consume the drinks to keep up their energy during periods of intense physical activity or drink them after exercise to quench their thirst, however rather than re-hydrating their bodies, these drinks may actually lead to dehydration.
Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, which re-hydrate the body. These sports drinks also provide sugars, which the body burns to create energy and replenish electrolytes. Electrolytes maintain salt and potassium balances in the body.
Other health risks associated with energy drinks include electrolyte disturbances, nausea and vomiting, and heart irregularities.
Excessive consumption or mixing the drinks with alcohol can also have serious health effects.
“ You’re overloading the body with heavy stimulants and heavy depressants and that can be an explosive combination,” says Smith. “I’m concerned these drinks can also affect a child’s ability to learn.”
Energy drinks are banned from school property in this province and in PEI, however some kids can still buy them at corner stores or bring them to school from home.
Smith says several parents told him they were so worried about the number of energy drinks being sold to kids from a store located near their child’s school, they contacted the owner of the store with their concerns.
“ They asked if he would stop selling the energy drinks to kids, but he wouldn’t comply,” says Smith. “Unfortunately unless there is some regulation in place saying it is not only wrong, but illegal, these drinks will continue to be handed out to young kids.”
Maximum caffeine intake
For children age 12 and under, Health Canada recommends a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Based on average body weights of children, this means a daily caffeine intake of no more than 45 mg for children aged 4 to 6, 62.5 mg for children aged 7-9 and 85 mg for children aged 10-12.
For women of childbearing age, the new recommendation is a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 300 mg, while a daily intake of no more than 400 mg is recommended for healthy adults.
According to a Health Canada analysis an eight-ounce energy drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine - the same as a medium coffee.
Smith would also like to see changes in how the energy drinks are advertised on store shelves.
“ They’re being sold on shelves right along side of cans of pop or right next to the checkout,” he says. “ They’re designed to catch the eye and to really entice kids. But I’m not sure people realize the high amount of caffeine these drinks contain and the damage it can do to a child. There has to be some safeguards put in place to protect kids.”
Deal with the issue
Last spring the Eastern School District sent a memo to principals informing them about energy drinks and suggested they inform parents if the drinks are a problem at their schools.
Meanwhile Smith says the Federation of School Councils hopes to partner with the provincial Medical Association and the department of Health, to try and deal with the issue.
“Everyone is as concerned as we are and everyone feels regulations are needed, but sometimes it takes people and departments a while to get together and get a plan in place. The wheels of progress are often slow to turn. I’m hoping that’s not the case in this situation.”
PICK ME UPS - The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils wants to ban the sales of energy drinks to children under the age of 16. The organization wants the drinks to be regulated in the same manner as cigarettes.
DENISE PIKE/THE COMPASS