Banning energy drinks is a doomed shot in the dark

Related tags Caffeine

Energy shot drinks have come under fire from German authorities which are employing an old-school prohibition logic that history has repeatedly dunce-hatted.

The call by Germany’s Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) to ban energy shots is daft and it should be binned before it gathers momentum among those sections of society which would like to cotton wool life to the point where it ceases to be worth living.

The case in point here is the potential for over-consumption of energy shot drinks by innocent young people in night clubs and the health hazards such scenarios present.

The list of potential ails the BfR lists is long and includes nausea, anxiety, insomnia and, oh yeah, ‘perceptual disturbances’, that old favourite from the Summer of Love 1969.

Yet while calling for the ban, rather bizarrely, the BfR also acknowledges: “An actual causal relationship between these factors has not yet been scientifically demonstrated.”

Well that’s nice then.

And it’s not as though the kids have been found burbling paranoid rubbish into darkened corners of night clubs as they deal with the ‘perceptual disturbances’ brought on by one too many energy shots at the bar.

Let’s not be naïve here – a lot of the symptoms related by the BfR are also common to the use of hard and soft drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana that is also frequently found in nightclubs.

Throw in rampant alcohol abuse and it suddenly seems a little absurd that energy drinks are being singled out – especially in the absence of adverse events.

Hey, but who cares about that? Let’s do it for the kids.


Just because something has the potential to have a negative side-effect if consumed ‘off-piste’ is no reason to ban it. If that were the case the world would be bereft of a lot more than small cans of carbonated soda with the equivalent of about a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine in each.

How about chocolate, crisps, white bread, coffee, soda? These and many other foods have contributed to a globesity epidemic – why not ban them too? Why not force people to eat only organic porridge, green beans and lean free-range chicken. The other foods are just too damned dangerous.

Whilst there are folks who will eat four chocolate bars for lunch a responsible society has a moral obligation to remove this temptation from circulation, no?

Er, no.

Calls for prohibition based on preserving the greater good don’t work. You can ban something but if the underlying need and desire remains, then those needs and desires will find a means of satiation. Usually on some form of grey or black market.

Look at all the speak easies that sprung up in the wake of the US’s attempt to prohibit booze. It was a miserable failure before its revocation after 12 years in 1932.

Take a look in the mirror ball

In such a situation, quality control can be lost and suddenly you have unlicensed gatherings taking place where kids could be slugging back turbo-charged energy shots and worse – with far worse side effects including, inevitably, death.

The call is daft and doomed to failure, like most arguments centred around prohibition. Take away the evil energy shots and the kids will stop fornicating, drinking and taking drugs in these darkened, bleeping, hedonistic hype-pits.

The mirror ball will be replaced by a rainbow-coloured maypole tree that all the darling children can gaily dance around. This is a perceptual disturbance worse than any that may brought on by energy shot consumption at any level.

It is a proposal that should be given short shrift by regulators if and when they come to consider it.

Such energies would be better spent on education, on youthful integration into society, on research into the reasons a desire to over-consume such products exists in the first place, at many levels in many societies.

A more mature approach such as this would drain the easy scapegoating the BfR has engaged in on this occasion of its energy.

Shane Starling is editor of He has been writing about the nutrition industry for about ten years.

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"Energy" shots an unnecessary danger

Posted by BD,

Shane Starling, you must be joking.

Firstly, we should stop referring to this absolute crap as energy drinks and call them what they, stimulant drinks.

Secondly, when you have irresponsible soft drink companies that are dumb enough to actually market them under names such as 'Cocaine', you cannot seriously think this is a practice which encourages safe and responsible consumption. It is profiteering of the worst kind with absolutely no regard for long term consequences.

The marketing of stimulant drinks in 'shot' size, ie 30-60mL is just a further example of irresponsible marketing and a product that probably should never have been allowed to market. It merely allows and even encourages the excessive consumption of these beverages. I have seen people down 4 or 5 of these stimulant shots just to try and better one of their idiotic friends and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed doing this.

You say tell me why we should ban this product just because irresponsible use may occur and I say why should we even allow it in the first place.

Stimulant drinks are available in sizes of 250-500mL which may help to prevent excessive consumption just through sheer volume but availability in shot size means this type of abuse is not only facilitated but also encouraged.

You talk about a more mature approach, there is no maturity in the approach of the soft drink companies with marketing these products they are merely looking to profit at the expense of safety.

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Response to Dr Tracy

Posted by SM,

I don't know what you treat as a doctor but I hope it is not people. Your idea that the substance is the cause is ridiculous. This kid did not have his life destroyed by energy drinks. He destroyed it because of other factors that might be impossible to determine.

To blame the energy drinks would be like blaming guns for the deaths of people killed by the people who used the guns. And if you believe the logic of that, then you will by necessity have to believe that automobiles kill people also, and that all automobiles should be banned. People are responsible for their actions and that is the cause. not the instruments.

So let's but things in perspective. People have problems, period! How they solve their problems will always be a sociological dilemma. But take away every instrument that people will devise to solve their problems and you will, just like the author of this article suggested, have a life that will be sugar-coated and then watch and see how many problems the society will have to deal with. As the old expression goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

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Energy drinks are producing psychosis in youth

Posted by Dr. Ann Blake Tracy,

I am confused as to why someone who has written about the nutrition industry for a decade would be writing about someone's right to peddle garbage to kids?

Perhaps prohibition is not the answer, but the truth about these drinks needs to get out to the unsuspecting public. Psychiatrists are reporting the increasing incidence of psychosis in young people associated with the increasing use of so called "energy drinks," including Mountain Dew.

In the past three years I have personally witnessed an unbelievably tragic nightmare unfold as the first boy shot at Columbine High School has become more and more paranoid on Mountain Dew, gone psychotic and then court ordered into the same situation where he was given the same deadly drugs which Eric Harris took leading him to shoot this boy 7 - 13 times as he and Dylan Kleebold entered Columbine April 20, 1999.

I watched this boy who overcame so much from that horrific shooting end up having his life destroyed by these so called energy drinks! They finished the job Eric Harris did not finish that dreadful day.

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