Monday, December 07, 2009

Energy Drinks and Age Limits – Self-Imposed Swedish Regulation

I avoid caffeine like blind people avoid silent films. It does mean things to me. My eyelids twitch. My gut dances. My heart jumps rope. It basically becomes field day for my organs and appendages. It isn’t fun. On a different note, I am not a teenager anymore. I left those awkward teen years behind me several years ago. These two things are actually related.

I was at ICA, you know, your friendly neighborhood grocery store here in Sweden, purchasing what was to become my dinner. Two microwave calzone-like-ish things filled with taco-like-ish meat. I topped my grocery bag (which I of course brought to the store myself) with some potato chips and 1.5 liters of milk. Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do live alone. Is it that obvious?

What I purchased though isn’t nearly as interesting as the little sign on the cash register. I glanced at it, thinking it was the typical, if you look young and want to buy cigarettes or snus, be ready to show ID. I don’t buy either so wasn’t all that concerned. But something caught my eye. Fifteen. They were checking ID on 15 year olds. Not because they are allowed to buy tobacco. They aren’t. But because they might want to buy energy drinks.

ICA is checking ID for energy drink sales. If you are under the age of 15, you can’t buy a Red Bull. Because I don’t drink caffeine, please see above for reasons I don’t like feeling like I was sucker punched by Manny Pacquiao, and because I am no longer a teenager (I told you they were related. Never doubt me.) I haven’t been keeping up on the energy drink debate.

A quick search for “energidryck” on confirms my lack of interest in the subject. Turns out there has been a debate going on about this. A couple of months ago, 7-Eleven and Pressbyrån, decided to implement the 15 year old age limit. Since then, ICA seems to have followed suit along with a couple of other grocery store chains.

Just recently, a survey of 700 school nurses reported that about 80% wanted an age limit. And many of them wanted the age limit to be 18. The age of consent in this country is 15. Meaning that some nurses believe drinking an energy drink could be potentially more dangerous than having sex. I suppose putting a condom on a can of Red Bull might not have the desired effect, but I just don’t really understand the line of reasoning there.

What really gets me is the self-imposed legislation on caffeinated beverages. You can overdose on caffeine in plenty of different ways. A couple shots of espresso will do you in in no time. But Wayne’s Coffee doesn’t have a little sign on the cash register asking people to show their ID before buying an espresso. Here in Sweden though, companies are actively discouraging people from purchasing a product because they are unable to monitor their intake on their own. Kind of like Systembolaget.

It turns out this discussion is being had in the US also. Which is just as ridiculous as having it here. But here’s an idea, let kids overdose on caffeine. At some point, you kind of just have to accept your fate when you continue to drink highly caffeinated drinks after breaking out into a cold sweat with serious heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. Legislation can’t fix stupid.

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  1. Your observations are very relevant but I just wonder : what do you think of alcohol legislation ? I mean, even if some effects aren't immediate, some other are to be felt immediatly. So, do you think the age limit for alcohol to be absurd as well ?

  2. so i have to also cram energy drink cans into my packet beside cigars, for chicks!?

  3. they're seriously doing that? im an avid redbull drinker, maybe its the late hours i spend " studying" but, i cant imagine finishing highschool without that stuff. poor young bastards.

  4. the youngsters buy and drink them as any other soda.. often like 10 a day. at least all the gamer-kids.
    caffeine addiction can't be good when youre 15 yrs or younger..
    more sleep, healthy food and regular exercise and youll be sharp and alert ;P

    Tycker själv att det är lite överdrivet att förbjuda. 2-3 burkar per köptillfälle för dom som är 15 eller yngre kanske skulle passa bättre..

  5. Oh Goodness.

    This reminds me of a recent TIME magazine article that basically discussed how we got to and the fight against America's somewhat recent obsession with over parenting. Apparently we need to fight harder.

    I agree with you Hairy Swede. Let the youngsters have their energy drinks. Though the idea of a 12 year old girl asking her older sibling to buy her Red Bull, and then secretly downing it in her bedroom or a dark alley to get her 'fix' amuses me. The sad part about that though, is that's exactly what would start to happen. A "Hey Mister" game for energy drinks. What a world.

  6. Actually, I'd say that the risk of dying is a lot bigger when overdosing on energy drinks than overdosing on teenage sex.

    Sure, sex can lead to unwelcome burning sensations, and perhaps unwanted pregnancies, but it's very unlikely to kill you.

    Maybe a combination of the two could be extra lethal though? :)

    I'd also like to point out that energy drinks are marketed towards teenagers, whereas Wayne's Coffee is not.

  7. As rebellious teens, we used to buy vivarin (caffeine pills), crush them and snort them.

    Really stupid.

    Misspent youth, what can I say? Rebellious kids will always find ways to be stupid.

  8. Well we can always say "is isn't our problem kids die cus they are drinking too much energy drinks" but that just doesn't feel right.

    Because kids don't buy just one, they buy like 3 a day, and that's when they are 11 years old. And I don't see any kids going to Wayne's and buying 3 espressos. Energy drinks taste like soda but contains both coffein and taurin that acts as a "upper". It wouldn't be an age limit if kids could "control" their drinking, but if they are running around being all hyper in the classrum all they the teacher can't even teach. If you are 15 then fine, you're old enough to realize it's a problem but when you are 11, or even like 8 and buy alot of energy drinks you don't know the consequence the coffein can cause. (I work extra at ICA and trust me, most of the kids that are buying the energy drinks are 14 or under, sometimes as low as 6-8 years old.)

  9. @kmbr

    wow, well ive never stuffed anything up my nose, but i remember those caffine pills.. they tasted like strawberry..good decision on the production company. making them taste like candy made them eve more consumable.

    @hairy swede, is there even a percentage of these idiot teens dropping dead from energy drinks? you must be brain dead to keep drinking them if you feel queezy.

    ,maybe like anonymous mentioned above me, since most of them are young( i agree), we should just stop little kids from buying it. i think high school kids are responsible enough to be able to drink an energy drink.

  10. That shit is terrible for little bodies. And hey, on the plus side, if Redbull is made illegal/taboo for teens, then just maybe if we are lucky it will become something they sneak around to buy and drink. Hopefully instead of alcohol. I think it's a fabulous idea to illegalize not-so-bad shit and then let the kids run around doing that instead. Next lets do spinach...I heard it has some wacky chemical that grow your penis too long and make your boobies expand....

  11. What is the cost of two types of fruits, two kinds of vegetables, and two types of drinks in sweden?

  12. Interesting....I had no idea Sweden had age restrictions on buying caffeinated drinks. Although I understand the concern for kids: teens in the US consume tons of energy drinks, and some of them contain some bizarre ingredients.

    I also find the alcohol restrictions in Sweden extremely odd. You put it best when you wrote: 'Legislation can’t fix stupid.' Ain't that the truth. -S

  13. @Anonymous: There is no age restriction on caffeinated drinks by law. It's just a couple of store chains that has chosen to put an age limit on it.

  14. @Anonymous and Hairy Swede - "Legislation can't fix stupid". True, but at least it can keep the stupid people alive.

  15. Oh, so i'm not the only one who takes the grocery bag to ICA! at first though i didn't use to but then when faced a pile of them in home and considered the money i pay for them, decided to take it.

  16. @Sweedede – I understand that certain things need to be regulated. Alcohol being one of them. So, no, I don’t think the age limit there is absurd.

    @anonymous – yes. Yes you do.

    @Lost – they sure are. Now that I am paying attention I’ve noticed it at several grocery stores actually.

    @F – agreed. Completely. The complete refusal of sale just seems to take it a little far for me.

    @Kane – alright, thats the best argument Ive heard for banning the sale to youngsters. Because that is a glorious, and hilarious, situation. Soon, they are going to be running ads here in Sweden warning parents and older siblings not to buy red bull for the youngsters.

    @Tobbe – well... maybe not immediately, but lets play the disease game and I suppose there are probably a few more ways to die.

    Although, you mention of the combination of the two just gave me a horrible image of some sort of weird energizer bunny like romp that leads to death. Don’t ask.

    @kmbr – true enough. Luckily, snorting red bull probably wouldnt work out too well.

    @anonymous – maybe, but it takes a ridiculous amount of caffeine to actually lead to an overdose strong enough to kill someone. Even more than several red bulls can deliver. Granted, it could trigger something else (some underlying heart disease for example) but that gets onto a slippery slope.

    @Lost – thats the thing. No one is dying. Mostly because, as I mentioned above, to overdose on enough caffeine to kill you is a herculean task. One that even the wings of red bull cant overcome.

    @m8 – Im pretty sure that shit is terrible for all bodies. But the amount of lördagsgodis I just ingested this weekend is also terrible. And if they ban that shit I am leaving this country. Immediately.

    @octpussycatfish - Milk: 16.98 SEK for 2 liters
    Apple Juice: 18.98 SEK for 1 liter

    Bananas: 16.90 SEK for 1 kilo
    Clementines: 17.90 SEK for 1 kilo

    Red Bell Pepper: 27.90 SEK for 1 kilo
    Red Onion: 9.90 SEK for 1 kilo

    @anonymous – the country itself doesn’t. just self-imposed by certain grocery store chains.

    @anonymous – exactly.

    @Robban – do we want to do that though?

    @Tod – thats how they get you. just wear you down with the increasing pile of plastic bags at your home that you are paying for. Might as well reuse them.

  17. That's the question...

  18. Drinking only two cans of Red Bull is enough to trigger side-effects in some. And considering we're talking about young kids here, with developing brains and lacking in self-control (and thus more prone to do stupid things like, say, at a party mix Rockstar Energy with vodka), this restriction doesn't seem too bad.

    And come on, it's not like they're "forbidden" from consuming energy drinks, simply from buying, i.e. the intention is to restrict, not completely obliterate, consumption.

  19. and 2 espressos have almost exactly the same amount of caffeiene as 2 red bulls. no one is restricting those.

  20. Swede here, in a ICA store in Kungälv there is an age restriction of 18, im 16 btw and can buy everywhere else except for in that specific ICA store. Imagine my surprise when they stopped me at the register the first time, maybe its because my school is literally right next to it..? i dont know its so stupid.