Targeting Teenagers: Energy Drinks, (Self) Regulation and the Ethics of the 4ps

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The Presence of Energy Drinks

When taking a look around at the night life of any city of the western culture we may come to a conclusion that pubs and party places are stuffed with under aged children below 20 or even 18. These kids need more energy to survive the rush of the nightlife therefore it is not unusual to see them drinking energy drinks – or even mixing it with alcoholic beverages. Do the producers and marketers of such energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster think of the unhealthy effects of these drinks on adolescents?

A perception can be made that such beverages are highly effecting and endangering the health of their consumers – teenagers and adults – however, their producers are targeting at the most vulnerable and willing to spend audience – the teenagers of the western cosmopolitan cities. The long term goal of producers and marketers of energy drinks is not less but to own as high percentage of the market share as possible, using any kinds of marketing tools, without taking into consideration ethics and the health risks caused by energy drinks.

Health Effects
It is a well-known fact that energy drinks such as Red Bull or Monster contain ingredients that could be harmful not only for teens but for adults as well in the long run. According to pharmaceutical studies of Clauson et al. (2008) ginseng, taurine, guarana, bitter orange, and caffeine – key ingredients of energy drinks – may interact with each other in a way that can cause symptoms varying from headache, insomnia, high blood-pressure, stroke, or even heart attack.

Various sources from the Internet show evidence that teenagers‘ health was harmed after consuming energy drinks. In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Florida, went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. (Parker-Pope, 2008)

‘Three years ago, Ross Cooney, 18, from Ireland, died after he shared four cans of Red Bull and played in a basketball match.‘ (Nordqvist, 2004)

In the mean time it must be mentioned that not only the ingredients can be harmful and risky for the teenage consumers but the lack of responsibility during drinking energy drinks plays an important role as well. While adults are – or should be – able to keep their limits, teenagers act in the most unexpected ways. ‘But the biggest worry is how some teens use the drinks. Some report downing several cans in a row to get a buzz, and a new study found a surprising number of poison­center calls from young people getting sick from too much caffeine.‘ (Johnson, 2006)

Other sources underline that another factor effecting adolescents is strongly in connection with their behaviour. Energy drinks may negatively affect those teenagers, who are more aggressive by nature, ‘High consumption of energy drinks is associated with "toxic jock" behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.‘ (Parker-Pope, 2008)

Based on the above risk factors and several other additional ones numerous countries and states have already banned – or attempted to ban energy drinks, however, they were not able to sustain the state of rejection for a longer time span.

For instance France, Denmark and Norway have banned Red Bull for a certain amount of time – the ban was upheld by the European Court mainly because the caffeine levels were considered to be safe and negative effects of other ingredients were not supported. The European Union enforced Red Bull and other energy drink providers to warn their consumers of the high caffeine content (Nordqvist, 2004).

In the United States there have been several attempts as well to ban energy drinks – to protect adolescents, but the law does not make any restrictions...
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