Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, RI.6-8.10, W.6-8.1, W.6-8.4, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Power, Authority, and Governance • Science, Technology, and Society


We Write It, You Decide

Should Teens Be Allowed to Buy Energy Drinks?

Guzzling caffeine-packed beverages comes with health risks—especially for kids and teens. Who gets to decide whether young people can purchase them?

Cruise the energy drink aisle at a store, and you’ll find rows of brightly colored cans. Some feature superheroes, while others come in candy flavors. The drinks may seem kid-friendly, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises young people to avoid them completely.

Each can contains an unhealthy amount of caffeine for kids, the AAP says. Caffeine is a stimulant that occurs naturally in some foods and drinks. Many beverages, including energy drinks, contain a synthetic, or human-made, version. Both types of caffeine can help you feel awake and alert. Too much, however, can harm your health, doctors say, and young people are more sensitive to caffeine than adults.

As a result, several countries have banned the sale of energy drinks to teens. In the European nations of Latvia and Lithuania, for example, kids younger than 18 can’t purchase these beverages.

Should the United States do the same? While few people argue that the beverages are healthy, some say it is not the government’s place to decide what kids and teens drink. Plus, they argue, such a ban wouldn’t stop young people from consuming other products that contain caffeine.

Consider the pros and cons of banning the sale of energy drinks to teens. Then decide for yourself.

Not Worth the Risk

Some energy drinks are loaded with 300 milligrams of caffeine—more than you’d get in six cans of cola. Research has shown that this amount of caffeine can cause unpleasant and alarming side effects for kids, including upset stomach, headaches, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures. (Adults may experience the same symptoms after consuming larger quantities.)

Energy drinks can have dangerous side effects.

Chloe Rothberg, a middle school student in Rochester, New York, worries that the 31 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 who regularly consume energy drinks may not be aware of the potential dangers. She says the products should be off-limits. “I don’t think risking physical health is a good idea,” she explains. 

Also, doctors say, while the drinks promise to give you energy, the opposite may end up being true.

“Caffeine interrupts sleep, and if someone isn’t getting good sleep, they’re going to feel tired, their mood decreases, and anxiety increases,” says Ellen Rome, head of the Center for Adolescent Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital in Ohio.

Caffeine by the Numbers

Experts say kids ages 12 to 18 should not consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day. For adults, the suggested maximum is 400 milligrams. How much caffeine is in your drink or snack?

Hot coffee
16 ounces
225 to 360 milligrams

Energy drink
16 ounces
160 to 300 milligrams

12 ounces
34 to 46 milligrams

Chocolate bar
1.5 ounces
8 to 10 milligrams

SOURCES: Center for Science in the Public Interest; Harvard School of Public Health

An Unfair Target

How much control should the government have over our lives? That’s often a point of debate, and a potential energy drink ban is no exception. Many people argue that parents—not the government—should decide what their children can and can’t consume.

“Energy drinks have negative health effects, but I don’t think outright banning them is a solution,” says Aidan Penna, a high school student in Charleston, South Carolina. “If you’re a parent and you don’t want your kid drinking energy drinks, then don’t purchase them or let your child buy them.” 

Parents should get to decide what teens do and don’t buy.

Plus, singling out energy drinks is unfair, others say. Members of the industry recently spoke out against a proposal to stop selling energy drinks to kids under 16 in Wales, a part of the United Kingdom. “The sales ban would not address most of the caffeine content in a wide range of other beverages that are consumed by children,” they said.

Aidan agrees. “There are other drinks that have a ton of caffeine, like coffee,” he points out, “but we aren’t trying to ban them.”

SKILL SPOTLIGHT: Argument Writing

Should teens be allowed to buy energy drinks? Make a list of reasons for each side. Then write an argument essay to support your claim. Include evidence from the article as well as your own experience or research.

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