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Manatee school district bans energy drinks

7:55 PM, Jul 23, 2012   |    comments
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BRADENTON, Florida -- First, school districts scaled back sodas in vending machines. Now, one Bay area school district is targeting energy drinks, a growing $9 billion business in the U.S.

The Manatee County School Board voted 4-0 to ban the drinks from schools, placing them on the same level as cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

School officials say the high sugar and caffeine is a bad combination for students. Each 16 ounce can has about 200 calories, more than 14 teaspoons of sugar, and 200 milligrams of caffeine, the same as in about three cups of coffee.

Energy drinks are so strong Monster manufacturers advise users in small print on the back of the can to "consumer responsibly." Customers are to limit themselves to one can every four hours no more than three times a day.

The drinks are usually found by the sports drinks and water bottles in convenience stores and cost about $2 each. The labels promise the drink will enhance performance and make one think better.

"People should be able to drink these, stay focused in school," said one teen who wishes to remain anonymous. The Manatee High School teen said he drinks at least one a week.

Manatee school officials say the opposite is true and students have trouble concentrating. "We know a significant number of students who have increased energy followed by decreased energy can have agitation. Caffeine affects how the brain works," said Joe Stokes, director of elementary schools for Manatee School District.

Stokes is also part of the school code of conduct committee that  recommended the ban on energy drinks after middle school and high schools administrators told the committee the drinks are a problem.

Stokes said, "As a school board, we are taking a look at what is best for kids during the school day."

"That's ridiculous," said the unidentified teen.

Some parents agreed with the school district's plans. Libby Bell said, "As far as being hyper, I don't want to teach a child that's jumping and upset."

Janie Barton said, "They should monitor what kids bring in and out because of certain behaviors."

Since energy drinks are labeled as "dietary supplements," they are not regulated like sodas and juices. While the warning label on the cans say they're not recommended for children, a child can legally buy one.

Research shows the high levels of caffeine levels can affect blood pressure, heart rate, and brain function.

"More restlessness, more distractibility, generally less ability to focus," said psychologist Robert Boxley with the Manatee-Glens Mental Health and Addiction Service. He said energy drinks may lead users to stronger stimulants.

Boxley said, "Once you get used to the idea, put something in your body to change the way you feel, then you open the door to all kinds of possibilities."

The new ban will take effect this school year. A student caught with an energy drink will first get a warning, but if they're caught again they could face suspension.

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