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OTHER VIEW
Other View: A dangerous buzz

Last month, a 16-year-old tragically lost his life after consuming an energy drink, a soda and a latte—drinks routinely consumed by and often intensively marketed to youths—all within a few hours. The boy’s heart simply couldn’t cope with the amount of caffeine in the beverages, according to the coroner.

The teen wasn’t the first to pay a terrible price for drinking popular beverages that are commonly (but mistakenly) considered safe, but he should be the last. The government must take steps to reduce caffeine levels allowed in energy drinks; to clearly provide recommendations on safe caffeine consumption for children and adolescents; to ban the marketing of energy drinks to young people of all ages; and to help educate the public on the health risks of high caffeine intake.

Caffeine is a strong and potentially dangerous stimulant, particularly for children and adolescents. When people think of the drug, they generally think of coffee. But less widely known is that a single serving of an energy drink (Monster Energy, Red Bull, 5-hour Energy and Rockstar, to name a few) may contain many times more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

Making matters worse, consumers do not know the risks of the high levels of caffeine in an energy drink. Nutrition labels are not legally required to include information about caffeine content—a critical and potentially life-threatening omission. Many drink manufacturers have initiated voluntary labeling initiatives, but they are not consistently applied and do not provide adequate information to ensure consumers appropriately interpret the level of risk a beverage presents. Labels are a first step—necessary, but not sufficient.

Unlike coffee, energy drinks are widely marketed to adolescents, putting them at risk of extreme caffeine overload with potentially devastating cardiovascular and neurological consequences. From 2005 to 2011, energy drink-related emergency-room visits rosefrom 1,494 to 20,783. This included high rates of unintentional exposure in children younger than 6.

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report on the appropriateness of sports and energy drinks for children and adolescents, concluding that “energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain, and should never be consumed by children and adolescents.” In 2013, the American Medical Association adopted a policy supporting a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to those under 18, arguing that energy drinks could lead to a host of issues in young people, including heart problems.

Still, energy drink consumption has skyrocketed in recent years, even as soda consumption has begun to decline. Given the danger energy drinks pose to children and teens with no potential benefit to their health or well-being, the marketing and advertising of these products to young people must stop. We applaud effortsby Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., to move in this direction, and expect more of their colleagues in Congress to follow suit.

Because manufacturers add caffeine to energy drinks, it is subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive. In fact, the FDA has recognized the risks of high caffeine consumption and imposed a 71-milligram limit on the amount of caffeine that may be added to a 12-ounce soda. However, no limits are imposed on the caffeine content of energy drinks, and containers easily can hold 200 to 300 milligramsor more. There is no justification for this regulatory distinction. Children and adolescents drinking energy drinks need as much protection as those drinking Coke and Pepsi.

Young people ages 12 through 17—almost one-third of whom consume energy drinks regularly—are entitled to information that could save their lives. The FDA’s limits on added caffeine in colas should be applied to energy drinks, and the amount of caffeine added to an energy drink should be listed on its nutrition label, including a distinct front-of-package warning for drinks with caffeine levels greater than those allowed in soda. Information based on scientific testing should also be made available on the effects of energy drink additives, such as guarana and taurine, that can increase the potency and increase the effects of caffeine.

As sales of energy drinks rise every year, the need to act becomes even more critical. Steps to protect the health of our children are both feasible and necessary. The problem has been identified. Now is the time to act.


Mailbag
Letters of Thanks

Thank You Letters

Thanks for successful art show

On behalf of the board of directors, staff and volunteers of Hospice Visions Inc., we’d like to thank everyone who made our 2nd Annual “Art for Hospice” art exhibition and fundraiser a great success! Father Norbert, Father Ezekiel, Father Kenneth, Father Andrew, Brother Sylvester, Brother Selby and the entire Monastery of the Ascension Community, thank you for all of your help, your prayers and a peaceful, serene venue in which to display this original art.

Local artists: Maria Smith with The Artists Atelier, Corrine Slusser, Robert Moore, Robert and Virga West, Daryl Hunt, Ron Hicks, Jason Hicks, Shena Bingham, Nicholas Maybon, Bernadette Regnier Dan Barsness, David Mensing, Kathy Lily Field, Chaddy Ward, Iris Boyd, Patricia Hall, Cody Allen White, Garth Williams, Fred Choate, Chin Bowers, Bill Garibyan and Brenda Ford thank you for your amazing talent and heart. Patrons of art: C. L Butler, Susan Schiffler, Marge Nessa, Dennis Boyer, Antionette Hafliger, Kathleen Carlson, Carl Spaulding and Sue Votroubek, Jerry Gunter and Tami Slatter, Bob and Lori Ward, Anne McClain, Father John Koelsch, Joe and Linda Rockne, Judy Erdman, Jody Tremblay, Jim and Lynn Ponzo and Dean Seibel—AAMS, Visions Home Health and other anonymous donors throughout the event.

Thank you Party Center: Darci Mason, Ashley Benkula, Austin Dey, Karleen Dey, Gentry Plew and Michael Burkhart for a delicious, elegantly decorated festive evening to remember.

Thank you to the art lovers who attended our art exhibit with a social conscience and for supporting the “Visions of Home” Hospice Home.

Tami Slatter, RN, BSN, CHPCA

Hospice Visions Inc. executive director

Organizations thanking contributors or supporters.

Individuals thanking public agencies and businesses for extraordinary service.

Send letters to letters@magicvalley.com. If you would like to purchase a classified ad to express gratitude of a personal rather than public nature, call the Times-News Customer Service department.


Editorial
Our View: Cheers and Jeers

Cheer

Hundreds of high schoolers across the Magic Valley received diplomas this week and now begin new chapters in their lives.

Congratulations to all. You’ve made it this far; now, why not go a little further?

Employers across the region report trouble hiring skilled workers. And with low unemployment rates at what one economist called “crisis levels,” a little more education holds that much more value as companies compete for the best-trained workers.

Many students will go on to four-year universities. More should pursue community college programs and vocational training.

The prospect of continuing your studies after just finishing 12 years of school might seem daunting, but a short-term commitment now to a better education will reap benefits your whole life.

Jeer

It is Memorial Day weekend, which means Idaho’s tourism industry is entering its busiest season of the year, when people flock to some of the most beautiful destinations on Earth, right here in Idaho.

But some of those locales aren’t quite as beautiful as they deserve to be because some folks seem to think they’re dumping grounds for garbage.

How often have you taken a visitor to a favorite spot, only to find it littered with soda cans and junk?

But what can you do?

First, we can all do our part by not littering. Second, join one of the many volunteer efforts underway this time of year to clean up garbage on public lands. And lastly, if you see somebody dumping garbage or littering, speak up. Contact the authorities.

Public land belongs to all of us, after all.

The Bureau of Land Management this weekend is kicking off its second annual Don’t Dump Idaho campaign and has more information about how to keep our public lands clean.

If you see someone dumping garbage or come across a dumpsite, report it at BLM_ID_DontDumpIdaho@blm.gov or by phone at 1-844-327-5572 or 208-373-4096. In south-central Idaho, call SIRCOMM at 208-735-1911 or BLM Law Enforcement at 208-735-4600.

Cheer

The Twin Falls City Council on Monday unanimously approved new ordinances aimed at keeping pets safe. New rules will give police more powers to intervene when animals are trapped in hot cars.

We all know leaving children in hot cars can have devastating consequences. More than 700 children have died since 1998 from being left inside cars, according to noheatstroke.com, a website that tracks such deaths.

But heat can be even more devastating for pets. Dogs lack the ability to sweat to cool their bodies down. Cracking a window often simply isn’t enough. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates hundreds of pets die each year from being left in hot cars.

Twin’s new ordinances make it illegal to leave animals unattended inside motor vehicles. It also allows police to break into a car when an animal is in danger. Car owners could face fines up to $100 for leaving Fido unattended.

Don’t think this is a big problem? City police have already responded to seven calls about animals in cars this year, and it’s hardly been warm outside.

Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins supported the ordinance but rightly pointed out that it was a shame the government was having to legislate something like common sense. Responsible pet owners should know it’s not OK to leave animals unattended.

We agree, but now there will be consequences for their stupidity beyond the loss of a pet’s life.