I am writing this out of concern as an administrator who often sees students drinking so-called sports or energy drinks in the morning. We currently do not have a rule against them. Aside from the health-related concerns regarding the ingredients, I am mad about a subtle marketing trend that promotes alcohol consumption among young people and is flying just below the awareness radar of adults who should be monitoring this type of abuse.
There are a number of these drinks on the market which cannot be easily differentiated from one another. That is, all these cans begin to resemble each other with their bright colors, logos, stars, lightening bolts, and general appearance. It doesn't take an advertising guru to see that product containers are designed to be misleading. In fact, there are reports that both parents as well as store owners who sell the products have a hard time telling them apart.
The public seems unaware that some energy drink manufacturers are adding alcohol to their product. And unless you know what to look for, you might be looking right at a minor...a student...drinking an alcoholic energy drink in class. Spotting such terms as "malt beverage" or "A-L-C by weight" can be tricky when the lettering blends with the rest of the package design - or, you just didn't know that both of those terms tell you it contains alcohol. Here are two popular products, one would be ok in the hands of a minor, the other not. Could you tell the difference from several feet away as the can passed you in the hands of a student hurrying to class in a crowded hallway?
The black can is legal for minors to consume. The gold can contains 6% alcohol (12 proof).
The marketing campaigns behind these drinks are as insidious as they are ingenious. Product spin-offs at x-treme sport venues, equipment, sponsors, clothes, product placement in non-mainstream venues creates a demand that implies consumers are "in the know" and hip to a non-adult market segment.
I am writing this blog specifically to alert readers (hello fellow administrators) to the fact that those innocent looking energy drinks that may appear around your house or campus deserve a serious look. There is a chance they contain alcohol, and you don't recognize it.
Drinks are being marketed to teens with an insidious implication that the drinks border on the illegal. "Wow, how kewl!" How else do you explain drinks named after illegal activities or drugs: Rehab, Ecstasy, Chronic (which comes with a faux parental advisory calling it an "explicit drink")!, or the not-even-pretending-to-be-subtle Cocaine: The Legal Alternative:
I am not so naive to think that we can stop this marketing of over-the-edge energy drinks, but I do feel a responsibility to alert readers to be on the alert and help guard against the illegal use of these products by minors. I also feel an administrative responsibility to urge my colleagues to more closely monitor the consumption of energy drinks by students.
Do you know what your kids are drinking - even if you are looking directly at the can? You might be surprised!
You can bet that I'll be checking out the cans in the hands of my students...