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Should kids be banned from buying energy drinks?

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

Jolt: Out of the hands of kids?

Long Island, New York is mulling a potential ban on energy drink sales to kids, claiming that the drinks are too unhealthy for youngsters. But does banning the drinks go too far?

Jolt: Out of the hands of kids?

Red Bull boom

It was almost a decade ago that energy drinks really took off, expanding from a selection of one or two to whole refrigerated cases and bulk outs. Today, there is a kaleidoscope of energy-boosting products available in an array of sizes, shapes and flavors. And anyone of any age can march right into a convenience store and buy them.

However, a legislator in Long Island, NY, wants to change that with a proposed energy drink ban in Long Island. Lynne Nowick's proposed ban would impact drinks with more than 80 milligrams of caffeine per serving, and would prohibit anyone age 19 and under from purchasing the drinks. Her concern is how those drinks impact young bodies -- causing sleep problems and high blood pressure.

But would this Long Island ban go too far in regulating what people can consume?

The medical side

Medical experts agree that too much caffeine just isn't good for you. "Children and teenagers are more so at risk for caffeine overdose and toxicities from consumption of energy drinks," says Stella Metsovas B.S., CCN.

Bertie Bregman, M.D., Chief of Family Medicine Service at NY Presbyterian Hospital, says that the drinks make kids feel more adult -- but their bodies don't need the energy boost. "Teens like the energy drinks because they're usually sleep deprived and have a very hard time waking up in the morning (this is a normal and biologically-based adolescent sleep pattern)," says Bregman.

Instead, kids should be getting their energy stimulation the old-fashioned way. "Kids should be getting energy from balanced meals, plenty of exercise and adequate sleep. If a child is asking for caffeine-spiked drinks, evaluate his lifestyle and make some positive changes," says Bregman.

What parents think

The question that remains is what parents think of a ban that would end the relationship between teens and energy drinks. Many say they are all for it. "Parents need to help their child develop healthy alternatives to finding energy versus teaching them that it's okay to put a bandaid on a greater issue. Kids are overstimulated as it is with computers, texting, and extra-curricular activities. Children don't need another stimuli that prevents them from being present," says Melissa Moraja.

Cari A., a teacher and parent, agrees. "They are a 'quick fix' for issues that need attention, like lack of sleep the night before (probably from texting or playing video games too late). We need to address issues in our children -- not give them a quick fix they are looking for," she says.

However, some parents, like dad Jim Joseph who is author of The Experience Effect, and president of Lippe Taylor, disagree. "There are no controlled substances in them, and no lethal ingredients. Purchasing them is a personal choice, based on personal needs," he says. "I personally don't buy them for myself or for my kids, but that's my choice."

>>What do you think of an energy drink ban? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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