Toronto to look at discouraging youth from pairing energy drinks with alcohol

Toronto to look at discouraging youth from pairing energy drinks with alcohol

The Toronto Board of Health will take a hard look at caffeinated energy drinks at its monthly meeting on Monday.

It's all part of a plan to discourage young people from mixing energy drinks with alcohol because of the health risks. 

The board will be asked to amend its municipal alcohol policy in order to focus its efforts on organizers of events on city properties, and to consider the possibility of restricting the sales and marketing of energy drinks to Toronto residents under age 19.

Monica Campbell, a policy director at Toronto Public Health, said the board would like to modernize its municipal alcohol policy.

"In recent years, caffeinated energy drinks have become more popular and individuals were found to be mixing these with alcohol, a practise that Health Canada strongly advises against," Campbell said in an email.

The board wants its policy to reflect Health Canada's warning, she said.

In a report to be considered by the board, the acting medical officer of health recommends that the city:

- require event organizers to be familiar with a Health Canada caution on the mixing of energy drinks with alcohol;

- require event organizers to make sure event bartenders are aware of the risks;

- require event organizers to consider not selling or distributing energy drinks with alcohol.

A second agenda item asks the board to discuss how the city could restrict the sales and marketing to youth.

A public health concern?

"Energy drinks are a relatively new class of beverages that are popular among young people," reads a summary of the second agenda item.

"Consumption of these drinks by young people has been identified as a public health concern because of the high levels of caffeine, added sugars and herbal stimulants, and youth-oriented marketing."

According to studies, the mixing of energy drinks and alcohol can cause cardiac, neurological and gastrointestinal issues.

"A primary cause of concern and increased risk ... is excess caffeine consumption, which can lead to adverse effects such as sleep disturbances, anxiety, jitteriness, gastrointestinal effects, tachycardia and other cardiac symptoms, and in rare cases, seizures and death," says an introduction to Consumption of Caffeinated Energy Drinks Among Youth and Young Adults in Canada, in summarizing the findings of earlier studies.

Beverage association says rules already strict

The Canadian Beverage Association, which represents companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic drinks in this country, said in an emailed statement that such drinks contain roughly half the caffeine found in a similar sized cup of coffee.

Energy drink consumption remains low among teenagers, according to the group.

"Canada's energy drink companies are committed to responsibly manufacturing, marketing, and labelling energy drinks in full accordance with Health Canada's requirements," the statement said.

"The recommendations in these reports reinforce the strict regulatory environment already in place in Canada, and allow for continued economic and event investments in Toronto."

Correction : An earlier version of this story suggested that the 2016 study, Consumption of Caffeinated Energy Drinks Among Youth and Young Adults in Canada, examined the effects of energy drinks on youth. In fact, it sought to describe the use of such beverages among young people in Canada. A quotation from its introduction notes the findings of other studies.(Mar 17, 2017 4:21 PM)