“Red-Bull”, “Monster”, and “rockstar” are three caffeine rich, high-energy drinks which are sold amongst many similar products. As the law stands, there are no restrictions in buying these products with regards to age. However, industry guidelines state that under-16’s should not be consuming any beverages with a caffeine level of 150mg per litre or above. Most manufacturer’s, including those listed above, do carry a warning saying that the product is unsuitable for under-16’s and pregnant women.
The problem is that a high caffeine intake has been linked with difficulties in concentrating and sleeping, it can also temporarily increase heart rates. These side-effects can have a greater impact on younger people, and this is why the industry has come in for criticism. Although warning labels are carried, they are not always obvious to the consumer, and advertising based around extreme sports has been seen as a blatant attempt to entice a younger customer base. Couple this with the fact that caffeine is classed as a drug, and can be addictive, and it becomes clear why these products are finding themselves facing calls for tighter controls.
As these products contain relatively high doses of caffeine, there is also a worry that children will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. After consuming large quantities of caffeine products, a tolerance will be built up and the temporary – energy boosting side effects of the drug will be decreased. However, as the tolerance builds so will the severity of withdrawal. These symptoms can include; headaches, irritability, drowsiness, insomnia, and stomach cramps.
As more data is collected it is inevitable that manufacturers will come under increased pressure from groups to reduce the caffeine levels in these products. There will also be more pressure levied against the government to enforce restrictions in their sale. However, current legislation allows children unrestricted access to these products and they can have a detrimental effect.
Until such time as a change in the law or manufacturing processes, hopefully further education of children to the dangers of caffeine, will help to curb the negative effects of this socially acceptable drug.