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EDITORIAL: Skip the energy drinks for kids

If the Canadian Paediatric Society is telling us children shouldn’t be drinking these products, why not take the decision out of the hands of the population they target?
If the Canadian Paediatric Society is telling us children shouldn’t be drinking these products, why not take the decision out of the hands of the population they target?

Your pre-teen or teenaged son or daughter feels groggy before school, so they grab an energy drink from the fridge or the corner store and down it on the way to class.

For many young people, this practice has replaced breakfast.

The promise of these beverages is the pick-me-up and boost in mental alertness, perhaps even “sports energy” for athletes — all in one convenient can.

The reality, though, is that energy drinks could be far more detrimental than helpful.

We’ve known for a while that the volume of caffeine in energy drinks can exceed the maximum daily intake for children, along with plenty of sugar. Even so, the Canadian Paediatric Society had stopped short of taking a position on sports and energy drinks other than to suggest non-athletes avoid them.

That is, until this week.

Back in April, a teenaged boy in the U.S. collapsed after downing an energy drink, a pop and a café latte within two hours. The teen likely died from a caffeine-induced heart arrhythmia, despite having no pre-existing heart condition.

This and other cases prompted the pediatric society in this country to recommend that people aged zero to 18 avoid energy drinks.

The society’s announcement this week is another step in the right direction for kids’ health — some schools in Atlantic Canada have already banned the consumption of these beverages, so this latest warning is another shot across the bow for the Monsters, Red Bulls and Gatorades of the world.

Lest you feel too badly for these poor, beleaguered energy drink makers, consider all the slick marketing, cool commercials, celebrity endorsements and professional sport sponsorships that come along with them, much of it targeted to the younger demographic.

That’s why the pediatric society’s position should only be the start of something more concrete.

Ontario pediatrician Dr. Catherine Pound, a co-author of the society’s statement, mused about restricting the use of energy drinks to adults, similar to alcohol or cigarettes.

It’s a suggestion worth considering.

Some store owners in this region have discussed asking for identification when selling energy drinks to customers who are under the age of 18, and some actually went as far as to implement the practice.

This, combined with making warning labels on energy drink cans mandatory, would go a long way to curbing their use among youth.

After all, if the Canadian Paediatric Society is telling us children shouldn’t be drinking these products, why not take the decision out of the hands of the population they target?

Let’s take these warnings one step further and explore the possibility of mitigating the potentially harmful effects from ever happening in the first place.

The promise of these drinks and the money behind the campaigns will make them difficult to resist. Still, we must find the energy to keep a potentially harmful product out of the hands of our kid

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