Energy Drink Bans

In this three-part series, we’ll talk about whether energy drink bans are good or bad, what has been tried in the US, and the bans or restrictions in other countries.

PART ONE – Are Energy Drink Bans Good or Bad? Are They Effective?

In PART ONE of this three-part series, we’ll talk about energy drinks bans in general. Why do people want to ban energy drinks? How does an energy drink ban work? What drinks does it include and why?

It can be scary when your baby gets ahold of something they’re not supposed to have, something that could hurt them. One night I came home and noticed plastic confetti all around my dog’s bed. Gjalla doesn’t eat her victims, she tears them to shreds. That night Gjalla got ahold of my Cubs baseball hat. I was rooting for the Cubs that year even though my husband is from Wisconsin, which means what I did was worse.

I worry about my baby eating something like chocolate, something that could really hurt her. This kind of worry is why people are trying to ban energy drinks.

People who support energy drink bans want to keep their kids safe. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve banned kids from buying things that could hurt them. In some states, people under 18 are not allowed to buy cough syrup, spray paint, or Sharpies. If you’re a kid caught buying a Sharpie, it goes on your permanent record.

But a ban on energy drinks – how would that work?

For starters, we need to know how much caffeine kids can have. Is it zero?

Nope. Zero to 100 mg caffeine.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids can have 0-100 mg caffeine per day. Technically, caffeine recommendations are per bodyweight but some kids weigh more than some adults and personally, I don’t believe your weight defines you as a person. So let’s just say if you’re under 18, you get 0-100 mg caffeine, from all sources.

So we’re not just talking about Red Bulls and Rockstars, it’s also Caramel Macchiatos and Mountain Dews. Oh sure, you want to ban Red Bull, but don’t you dare come after my Pumpkin Spice Latte.

A standard can of Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine. A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte has almost twice the caffeine — 150 mg. A Grande brewed coffee from Starbucks – over 300 mg caffeine – that’s more than 3 Red Bulls.

We can’t just ban energy drinks. Caffeine is the key ingredient doing all the work. The other so-called energy drink ingredients don’t come close to affecting your body the way caffeine does.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we need to consider a ban on all sources of caffeine. Any ban on energy drinks needs to consider all sources, because energy drinks aren’t the only place kids are getting their caffeine.

The Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State found that less than 10% of the caffeine drinkers under 18 get their caffeine from energy drinks. Out of 10 kids, 8 of those get their caffeine from soda, 3 of those 10 get their caffeine from coffee, 5 of those 10 get their caffeine from tea, and 1 out of 10 get their caffeine from energy drinks.

I know this adds up to more than 10 kids, but these 10 kids are allowed to drink more than one thing.

If we really want to protect kids from caffeine, we can’t just focus on the 10%. We can help all of them.

PART TWO – Indiana’s 2019 Energy Drink Ban – What it means for energy drinks and future energy drink bans

In this part, we’ll talk about one specific example of energy drink bans. Indiana Senate Bill 369 makes it a misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to a minor. What drinks does this ban include and *MORE IMPORTANTLY* what are the loopholes? How well will this ban keep kids safe from energy drinks and/or caffeine?

Senate Bill 369, introduced January 2019, would make it a class C misdemeanor to sell, give, or distribute an energy drink to someone younger than 18 years old. A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal offense, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The important part: how this ban defines an “energy drink”.

This particular ban defines an energy drink as a soft drink that contains 80 mg or more of caffeine per 9 fluid ounces and either a B-vitamins, an herbal ingredient, or any methylxanthine other than caffeine (which is just a fancy way of saying other sources of caffeine like guarana, yerba mate).

What’s the problem?

For starters, Red Bull is 80 mg per 8.4 fluid ounces. If Red Bull were larger (such as the 12 oz cans Red Bull also comes in), then yes, technically it would be more than 80 mg per 9 fluid ounces. Nonetheless, because the language of this ban specified 9 fluid ounces instead of mg caffeine-per-ounce, there’s potential for confusion around if minors can buy energy drinks smaller than 9 oz.

A larger problem is that minors would not be able to buy Monster Energy, but they would be able to buy coffee-type energy drinks like Java Monster. The ban specifies a type of soft drink, but since Java Monster contains milk or milk products, it’s not technically a soft drink, which means the ban does not apply.

A third problem with the energy drink ban is that it doesn’t address coffee beverages at all. That’s a problem because Starbucks is one of the companies under the impression they need to come out with drinks with more and more and more caffeine. Starbucks Tripleshot Energy has more caffeine than the standard 8.4 oz Red Bull. It’s better to have multiple smaller containers than one container with the same amount of caffeine because of volumetrics.

Volumetrics principles indicate your brain will treat opening that second can of Red Bull as a “pause point”, giving you time to register you’ve had enough. On the contrary, Volumetrics indicates you will feel compelled to drink the whole Starbucks Doubleshot can.  Having to open a second container to get the same amount of caffeine as one big container means you will have time to stop before you have too much.

To Summarize

Even if a ban like the one proposed by Indiana passes, it won’t be effective and it certainly won’t prevent kids from buying things that have more caffeine than the maximum amount they can have in one day. Preventing someone from buying an energy drink isn’t really going to help. Instead, it would be much more effective to teach minors:

  • how to tell when you’ve had enough caffeine
  • how to read a label
  • how to figure out how much caffeine is in one drink versus another

These lessons are actions we can all take that would be much more effective than an energy drink ban.

PART THREE – Energy Drink Bans and Laws Around the World

Should energy drinks be banned? Let’s look at energy drink laws in the US and other countries. Watch the video below for a review of energy drink bans the US has tried, as well as energy drink bans and laws in the UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

US Energy Drink Bans:

  • 1:35 Kentucky’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:01 New York’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:19 Chicago’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:30 Los Angeles’ Energy Drink Ban
  • 2:58 Maryland’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:21 Indiana’s Energy Drink Ban
  • 3:45 General USA Energy Drink Ban Strategy

Bans, Laws, and Proposals Around the World:

  • 3:53 UK Energy Drink Ban #notforchildren
  • 4:10 WHAT ENERGY DRINK BANS HAVE WORKED – Canada’s Energy Drink Law
  • 4:45 Australia New Zealand Food Authority – Formulated Caffeinated Beverage Law
  • 5:26 Taiwan Energy Drink Law
  • 5:47 Brazil Energy Drink Law
  • 6:05 EU (+ UK?) Energy Drink Law for “High Caffeine Content” label

REFERENCES

  • Mitchell, Diane C., et al. “Beverage Caffeine Intakes in the U.S.” Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 63, 2014, pp. 136–142., doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.10.042.
  • “Press Clips: Indiana Lawmakers Seek Ban on Energy Drink Sales to Minors.” BevNET.com, 7 Mar. 2019, www.bevnet.com/news/2019/press-clips-indiana-lawmakers-seek-ban-on-energy-drink-sales-to-minors.
  • Indiana General Assembly. “Indiana General Assembly.” Indiana General Assembly, 2019 Session, iga.in.gov/documents/5c4b9b92.
  • https://www.caffeineinformer.com/energy-drink-ban-the-beginning-of-the-end
  • Energy Drinks: An Assessment of Their Market Size, Consumer Demographics, Ingredient Profile, Functionality, and Regulations in the United States – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2010.00111.x
  • Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20492310

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Danielle Robertson Rath is a food scientist, consultant, speaker, and the founder of GreenEyedGuide.com. Her book “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks – How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” is widely considered the ultimate resource for caffeine drinkers everywhere. Danielle aka “GreenEyedGuide” started studying energy drinks while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and master’s degree in food science. She has been fascinated by caffeinated beverages and their ingredients ever since.

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Book GreenEyedGuide as a guest speaker – here

Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE

 

 

Caffeine in Workout Supplements and the 5 Levels of Fatigue [YouTube]

This presentation covers the effects of caffeine when it’s consumed before, during, or after a workout. We also review how the Five Levels of Fatigue helps people determine which caffeine products (if any) are right for them. In essence, my Five Levels of Fatigue system helps people avoid caffeine toxicity and dependency because it teaches them tricks for matching how tired they are with how much caffeine they really need. For gym rats and athletes, knowing how to use the Five Levels of Fatigue keeps them from using caffeine after a grueling workout when what the body REALLY needs is rest (not caffeine).

Support Green-Eyed Guide on Patreon for $1! [click here]

RESOURCES:

http://greeneyedguide.com/2015/03/12/energy-drink-of-the-month-march-2015/ ; http://www.caffeineinformer.com/the-caffeine-database ;
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EVUGB58 ;

BroBible on Energy Drinks – All the Facts They Got Wrong

BroBible may be have expert insights on some matters, but their article on energy drinks proves biology and food science isn’t in their wheelhouse. Here’s the point-counterpoint to all the misleading statements in their article:

BroBible’s infographic from “Here Are All the Terrible Things That Energy Drinks Are Doing To Your Body”

BroBible's misleading infographic on energy drink
BroBible’s misleading infographic on energy drink “science”

First of all, what is a “health expert”. A doctor? A registered dietitian? A health blogger?

As someone who literally wrote the book on energy drinks and their ingredients and has researched the food science and biochemistry behind them for 10 years, let me dissect some of their misleading statements. (I’d go through them all but “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”)

MISTAKE ONE – Caffeine doesn’t “immediately” or “quickly do anything.

Read more

Energy Drink of the Month — July 2015: Hiball Energy Coffee

Succeeding in the energy drink market can be both challenging and liberating: while it’s challenging for a brand to overcome negative perceptions associated with energy drinks, there’s freedom and possibility in developing a novel energy blend with a unique flavor and sweetness profile. However, in developing an energy drink that more closely resembles coffee than soda, there are a whole new set of challenges. People can be rather particular about how their coffee tastes, and a quick glance at a coffee flavor wheel demonstrates the multitude of different flavor characteristics available. How do you develop a product that pleases both energy drink consumers and coffee drinkers alike? Read more

Open letter to Time regarding energy drink article in “The Answer Issue”

Greetings Ms Nancy Gibbs and Time Staff,

Normally, I find Time Magazine articles engaging and insightful but the article “Energy drinks have doctors worried—but business is booming” by Ms. Alexandra Sifferlin was severely disappointing.

Did you know that the top-selling energy drink has less caffeine and less sugar per serving than a tall mocha from Starbucks? The Issue Contents page features the question, “Should your kid drink Red Bull”, but Original Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine, 27 g sugar in 8.46 fl oz can versus the 90 mg caffeine, 35 g sugar in tall (12 oz) cafe mocha. This is not to say Red Bull is without its hazards. In fact, the biggest hazard with Red Bull is the alarming frequency with which this drink is mixed with alcohol! Unfortunately the dangerous combination of alcohol and energy drinks was completely omitted from this article. Read more