Banning energy drinks is a doomed shot in the dark

Related tags Caffeine

Energy shot drinks have come under fire from German authorities which are employing an old-school prohibition logic that history has repeatedly dunce-hatted.

The call by Germany’s Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) to ban energy shots is daft and it should be binned before it gathers momentum among those sections of society which would like to cotton wool life to the point where it ceases to be worth living.

The case in point here is the potential for over-consumption of energy shot drinks by innocent young people in night clubs and the health hazards such scenarios present.

The list of potential ails the BfR lists is long and includes nausea, anxiety, insomnia and, oh yeah, ‘perceptual disturbances’, that old favourite from the Summer of Love 1969.

Yet while calling for the ban, rather bizarrely, the BfR also acknowledges: “An actual causal relationship between these factors has not yet been scientifically demonstrated.”

Well that’s nice then.

And it’s not as though the kids have been found burbling paranoid rubbish into darkened corners of night clubs as they deal with the ‘perceptual disturbances’ brought on by one too many energy shots at the bar.

Let’s not be naïve here – a lot of the symptoms related by the BfR are also common to the use of hard and soft drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana that is also frequently found in nightclubs.

Throw in rampant alcohol abuse and it suddenly seems a little absurd that energy drinks are being singled out – especially in the absence of adverse events.

Hey, but who cares about that? Let’s do it for the kids.


Just because something has the potential to have a negative side-effect if consumed ‘off-piste’ is no reason to ban it. If that were the case the world would be bereft of a lot more than small cans of carbonated soda with the equivalent of about a cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine in each.

How about chocolate, crisps, white bread, coffee, soda? These and many other foods have contributed to a globesity epidemic – why not ban them too? Why not force people to eat only organic porridge, green beans and lean free-range chicken. The other foods are just too damned dangerous.

Whilst there are folks who will eat four chocolate bars for lunch a responsible society has a moral obligation to remove this temptation from circulation, no?

Er, no.

Calls for prohibition based on preserving the greater good don’t work. You can ban something but if the underlying need and desire remains, then those needs and desires will find a means of satiation. Usually on some form of grey or black market.

Look at all the speak easies that sprung up in the wake of the US’s attempt to prohibit booze. It was a miserable failure before its revocation after 12 years in 1932.

Take a look in the mirror ball

In such a situation, quality control can be lost and suddenly you have unlicensed gatherings taking place where kids could be slugging back turbo-charged energy shots and worse – with far worse side effects including, inevitably, death.

The call is daft and doomed to failure, like most arguments centred around prohibition. Take away the evil energy shots and the kids will stop fornicating, drinking and taking drugs in these darkened, bleeping, hedonistic hype-pits.

The mirror ball will be replaced by a rainbow-coloured maypole tree that all the darling children can gaily dance around. This is a perceptual disturbance worse than any that may brought on by energy shot consumption at any level.

It is a proposal that should be given short shrift by regulators if and when they come to consider it.

Such energies would be better spent on education, on youthful integration into society, on research into the reasons a desire to over-consume such products exists in the first place, at many levels in many societies.

A more mature approach such as this would drain the easy scapegoating the BfR has engaged in on this occasion of its energy.

Shane Starling is editor of He has been writing about the nutrition industry for about ten years.

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