Should energy drinks be restricted in the same way as alcohol and tobacco? The city of Toronto is considering it. The city is currently suggesting a plan to restrict the sale of energy drinks —Redbull, Monster, 5-hour Energy, etc.— to people over the age of 19. The Toronto Board of Health will be meeting this month to discuss where energy drinks can be sold in the city and to whom.
Health Canada has put strict regulations on the content and labeling of energy drinks. In 2010 the products were classified as a food and new measures were enacted to make sure Canadians know what they’re getting. Those measures include setting minimum and maximum levels of caffeine and limiting other ingredients like vitamins and minerals, as well as developing a list of acceptable ingredients.
Manufacturers are required to label the products just like any food item, including a nutrition facts table, ingredients, and potential allergy information. They must also state that the products are a “high source of caffeine,” and are “not recommended for children, pregnant/breastfeeding women, [or] individuals sensitive to caffeine.” The amount of caffeine in such products must be shown on the container in mg per serving size.
Health Canada also prohibits energy drinks as an ingredient in pre-mixed alcoholic beverages and requires that all energy drink products be labeled with the statement “do not mix with alcohol.” Despite this, popular mixed drinks are regularly sold that combine alcohol and energy drinks. Skybar at Brock University sells Rockstar energy drinks, though the products are listed under their ‘non-alcoholic’ beverage section and are not advertised as being sold in combination with alcohol. Though not specifically listed on their menu, Skybar does sell drinks such as Jager Bombs, which involve dropping a shot of Jagermeister into a glass of an energy drink. The products come in two separate containers and are combined by the person who is going to drink them.
The Center for Disease Control in the United States says that the combination of energy drinks with alcohol can increase the level of impairment the user experiences, rather than giving them increased coordination and energy.
“When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks the caffeine in these drinks can mask the depressant effects of alcohol,” the CDC says on their website. “At the same time, caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath alcohol concentrations or reduce the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.”
What this means is that, contrary to popular belief, one cannot ‘sober up’ with a cup of coffee or a can of Red Bull. The CDC also says that people who consume energy drinks with their alcohol are three times as likely to binge drink —drinking a significant amount in a short period of time — and twice as likely to report “being taken advantage of sexually, to report taking advantage of someone else sexually, and to report riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol.”
Other reported uses for energy drinks are as a rehydration drink for athletes. Health Canada advises that energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks.
“Sports drinks re-hydrate the body and provide sugars, which the body burns to create energy and replenish electrolytes,” says Health Canada. “Energy drinks, on the other hand, should not be used as a fluid replacement. Because of their caffeine content, they can actually mask the signs of