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The Dangers of the Youth Marketing of Adult "Energy" Products

Energy drinks are heavily consumed by teens, posing potential health risksThe rise in popularity of energy drinks and snacks is phenomenal and seems to be a growing industry that encompasses everything from new and innovative ways to prepare and serve coffee to gummy bears infused with caffeine. In the fast paced, high energy world of competitive business, more and more people are putting in 10+ hours a day at the work place believing that to do less is to risk failure in a chosen profession. One-hour lunches are increasingly becoming ten minutes at the desk – a quick sandwich and energy bar with an eye on the computer. Two or three red bulls spread out over the day to supplement the three or four cups of coffee in order to avoid a “natural” lag in energy is becoming the norm. The ad campaigns promoting these energy products suggest an immediate “boost” in not only physical stamina, but in mental clarity as well. For the ambitious professional this is hard to resist. More productivity leads to more money, which leads to a better quality of life – or so the story goes. But, energy Gummy Bears? How many wall street professionals are more attracted to the chewy candy than they are to the more mature looking (and tasting) energy bars and power drinks (though many of these products seem to be marketed with a certain juvenilia intent as well)? And are there health risks involved with these products – and are those risks higher for teenagers and children?

Most people acknowledge that there are side effects related to the intake of caffeine. Irritability, increased heart rate, nervousness and insomnia are the most obvious. These are noticeable characteristics in people who are considered heavy coffee drinkers. Many of these energy products contain extreme levels of caffeine and caffeine supplements. The long-term effects of high caffeine consumption have not been studied in detail. There has been a noticeable increase in emergency room visits related to energy drinks and some studies are suggesting that these higher doses of caffeine can cause delirium, neuromuscular tremors, and convulsions. Studies also suggest that this is a particular concern for teenagers and children. The same ingredients (caffeine and caffeine derivatives) are used in the production of energy food products such as energy bars and caffeine laced mint candies. But energy Gummy Bears? This suggests a clear marketing strategy that targets teenagers and children and herein lays a troubling situation. With health care workers increasingly calling for more studies to be done on the effects of high caffeine consumption, does it make sense to target these youth groups before these studies are carried out? As most of us who consume large amounts of coffee know, it is easy to become dependent on that coffee in order to function normally throughout the day. Coffee can become an addiction – without that morning cup of coffee it is often difficult to maintain the standard level of energy that gets the day started. Headaches and fatigue often result when the caffeine is not consumed. Is it an addiction comparable to that of more notorious drugs such as heroine or alcohol? Well, it would seem that not enough studies have been done to make such a determination – especially in relation to the excessive amounts of caffeine in these new products. If teenagers and children start ingesting large amounts of caffeine (while they chew their Gummy Bears) and maintain a certain level of energy because of the caffeine, will they not have adopted a pattern of dependence at an early age that will lead to behavioural patterns that will promote the desire for artificial stimulants in the future – and if there are indeed physical side effects that prove to be detrimental (apparently we will not know this for sure until those further studies are conducted), will not the young still maturing bodies of teenagers and children risk being compromised and perhaps harmed by the habitual use of caffeine Gummy Bears? If we do not yet know for sure what the long term effects are, how can we in good conscience sit back while our children are being encouraged to indulge in these products. It would seem that the prudent course of action would involve a moratorium on those energy products geared specifically to young people until we can engage a fuller understanding of what these products are actually doing to our children both physically and well as psychologically.

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