Hey Kids, Your “Energy Drinks” Now Come With Alcohol

alcoholenergydrinks.jpgWe all pick our battles. To me, this is one of them.

Rather than dwell on Mojito-flavored chewing gum, or Bacardi Mojito banners and Coors fly-by billboards bombarding our peace at Zuma beach last weekend, or even the absurdity of alcohol glamorama targeting teens with “Cosmopolitan Berry and Margarita Lime Epil-Stop hair remover” in Teen Vogue’s back to school issue this week…I’ll try to instead focus on larger news of ‘marketing phenoms’ mixing policy, alcohol and kids. (this should also help me dodge a flood of candy-curmudgeons citing piña colada Jelly Bellies, rum raisin ice cream and daiquiri ice sorbet…)

When over half of our U.S. attorneys general smack the wrists of marketers for false claims, especially those insisting alcoholic energy drinks and alcopops are not targeting teens, I say it’s time for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to pop the top on these shenanigans and do their job in the name of public health.

Fact is, America’s 11 million underage drinkers (7.2 million of them being binge-drinkers with more than 5 drinks under their belt at a time) don’t need any help from the marketing machine pouring “stamina” down kids’ gullets in the form of “alcoholic energy drinks.” (full pdf report via Marin Institute here) Kids are already being cued by constant media that binge-drinking is ‘normative’ via ‘bleh-hold-the-hair-back’ peer to peer bonding moments…

As it is, the surge of jolt and crash nonalcoholic energy drinks are worrying doctors creating a cluelessness cocktail of caffeine and sugar for impressionable kids in middle schools.

Now, marketers are adding alcohol into the mix to foul up the works even further by blurring branding lines beyond the current market confusion? Um…”this is wacked.”

8 million teens in the U.S. suck up the marketing of exotic sounding supplements like ginseng, taurine or guarana with one big swig, and I get to see this everytime I counter-market plain ol’ energy drinks, much less these new alcoholic versions being marketed to 80 million underage kids.

Oh, wait, silly me, that’s right, you’re NOT targeting teens, are you? You just use slogans like “Who’s up for staying out all night” and “You can sleep when you’re 30” and create cutesy packaging resembling ‘batteries’ for ‘energy’ or ‘nuclear power plant’ imagery with clever ‘juiced up’ names like Sparks and Charge and such… Only correlation with THAT alcohol/caffeine product positioning is toxic waste for teen bods.

At Shaping Youth we hear firsthand from middle schoolers how their older siblings add alcohol (e.g. Red Bull & Vodka) to energy drinks.

We learn tales of poison control overdoses, kids trashed in car crashes from caffeine buzz that deludes them into the belief of sobriety, and on the flip side, we also get some savvy tweens who tell us it tastes like carbonated cough syrup and you couldn’t pay them to down one…Nevertheless, it’s become the beverage ‘badge du jour’ at the lunch tables and among the after school sports slump crowd…

Gosh, the industry says, alcohol advertising is not targeting youth and certainly not encouraging teen addiction or substance abuse, and sheesh, consumers have been drinking caffeine/alcohol blends for years, like rum and coke, or Irish whiskey…right?

So why are all you ol’ stuffy HHS Surgeon General researchers getting so huffy about alcoholic energy drinks and issuing a “Call to Action” on underage drinking? Ahem.

Could it be because alcohol remains the most heavily abused substance by America’s youth and may harm the adolescent brain?

Could it be because research shows young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 5 times more likely to have alcohol-related problems set for life?

Could it be because industry is aggressively marketing to the tune of $3.2 billion in sales in the energy drink category just last year alone, with projections and hybrids racking up close to $6 billion in the next few years?

C’mon folks, this is not just a club scene cash cow…They’re targeting our kids, big time. You wanna talk numbers? We’ve certainly got yours.

Sound off, be heard!

Parents? Kids? If this bugs you too and you feel like some back talk, here’s a turnkey way to be heard with the FTC (thanks, Marin Institute, for these bilingual palmcards, and advocacy dos and don’ts) and here are many more resources from CAMY, (Center on Alcohol, Marketing and Youth) to take action.

p.s. Collegiate crew, here’s more info on what happens when energy drinks are combined with alcohol/impact on your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) as well as a BAC calculator, some tips for managing/hanging out with drinkers when you’re not drinking, and other useful links negating the ‘rite of passage’ bit, from Brown University’s health ed site.

A Few Other ‘Energy Drink’ Articles by Shaping Youth

Maxed Out on Energy Drinks? Diet Pepsi Max Says Wake Up People!

Sugary Sodas Falter, Now Caffeine & Sodium Rule

Peer Driven Junk Food Allure  & What’s Cool to Kids

Cocaine In A Can, Coming To Teens This Fall
(update: currently mandated name change; gee, ya think?)



  1. I am completely dumbfounded…I am surprised the food industry doesn’t lobby to legalize cocaine and heroin so they can re-introduce those ingredients into products again…they have no moral limits!

  2. Yeah, well…my main concern is market confusion…

    I’m trying not to be an alarmist Chicken Little Sky is Falling on this, but as this CBS news article shows, there’s already reverb on the consumerist front, for an unnecessary product to begin with:

    “RockStar 21 Alcoholic Drink Mistaken For Original”

    It’s just the usual ‘make a buck on the backs of kids whether it can harm them or not’ routine. Sigh.

  3. Having 7 grandchildren ages 4 to 26..and one great grandchild..you can only imagine the pressure my daughter and I have lived through and continue to experience regarding teen drinking. Neither my daughter or I are drinkers which made it harder to understand. None the less, the drinking continues, and in our opinion, is out of control..and we will fight the upward battle and progress, however, slowly and with great frustration.

    Thanks for your information, we’ll read, and process and hopefully learn other methods to help our children.

    Regards, Dorothy from grammology

  4. Nowadays everything is being made with caffeine and now with alcohol. I hope this will make some concern for the government to not approve foods that may affect children’s health. Thanks for sharing the blog it with us!

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