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Ask the Dentist: Energy drink ban would help but we need to educate teens about them

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, offers advice to parents on turning teens off energy drinks

Can it – energy drinks perk you up short-term but lead to excessive daytime sleepiness the day after consumption
Lucy Stock

THE debate about banning energy drinks being sold to children has raised its head again. Academics from Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, have called for the UK government to consider restricting the sale of energy drinks to under-16s after finding that they are being sold to children "cheaper than water and pop".

The dangers of energy drinks are well documented, with evidence indicating that regular or heavy use by under-18s is detrimental to their teeth and overall health.

Researchers discovered that energy drinks were easily available to the children and young people in local shops. The children were well aware of the different brands, key ingredients and some of the risks linked to drinking them.

However, they were less certain about the amount of sugar and caffeine contained in the drinks. They also found that the drinks sold for as little as 25p (single cans are often on promotion, eg four for £1) with some of the young people taking advantage of the offers by pooling their money and sharing the drinks.

A ban would help; however, there are so many other poor choices of drinks open to teenagers – it's really about helping teenagers to make good choices on their own.

If you have noticed the empty cans in their room or bag discuss the issue with your teen as there are many myths surrounding these drinks. They may think they are cool from the trendy advertising and that they will give them an energy boost. However, explain that these drinks contain high amounts of sugar and some caffeine which give a short-term burst of energy and then cause them to crash at some point during the day.

According to a report produced by the National Institute of Health, energy drinks actually cause “excessive daytime sleepiness” the day after consumption.

Use the vanity angle as well to hit the message home – no-one wants to flash a smile of brown, unsightly teeth when they are being chatted up or to suffer the pain of toothache.

Sometimes a trip to the dentist can help, as a person outside the family can show the young person the damage that has occurred to their own teeth. Many people only take on messages if it affects them personally.

If you feel strongly about the sugar issue, then you could try changing their eating environment in school by lobbying your school canteen for healthier drinks choices and healthy vending machines.

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