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Teens in UAE use energy drinks to stay awake

Afkar Abdullah /Sharjah Filed on July 7, 2018 | Last updated on July 7, 2018 at 08.44 am
Teens in UAE use energy drinks to stay awake

(M. Sajjad/KT)

Municipality have banned selling energy drinks to those under 16 years.

Teenagers are resorting to energy drinks to stay awake at night during summer holidays, a period when parents become lenient about timings, Khaleej Times has learned.

Children who do not travel outside the country during the vacation have ample time to play games, watch movies and Fifa matches, or chat with friends on social media. In order to stay awake until late, a lot of children, especially in the age group of 13-16 years, are seen consuming energy drinks of various types on the streets and around their buildings to avoid being seen by their parents. The Sharjah Municipality have banned selling energy drinks to those under 16 years and also banned cafeterias from mixing energy drinks with other beverages.

Parents and eyewitnesses

Children were spotted consuming energy drinks around a building on King Abdul Aziz Road in Sharjah, according to security guards. They notified the parents, showing them video footages of the kids drinking and some of them picking up a fight. "But, the situation has not changed as the parents haven't controlled their children," said the security guards. 

Arshad Khan, a resident, said he had noticed children having energy drinks for fun as they don't have much to do during the summer.

The phenomenon is being spread among children because groceries, supermarkets and even pharmacies use various methods to sell the drinks to the children despite the ban. "If the children stop buying energy drinks, the groceries and supermarkets would not make a profit," he said.

Abu Fahad, a parent, said his younger son informed him that his elder brother was drinking an energy drink along with his friend. "I started watching my son and discovered he had been using the energy drink since the closure of the school. He was doing that along with a friend to stay awake all night and sleep during the day. He was missing prayers, meals and family interaction. I talked to him and to his friend's parents and enrolled him in the soccer academy at Al Wasl Club."

Another parent said she sensed that her son was hiding something from her. "When I insisted on seeing what it was, I found an energy drink can. He said he needed it to stay awake all night to play games on PS4 with his friend who stays in another country with a different time zone."

The mother urged the authorities concerned to tighten its monitoring on food outlets to ensure they don't flout the rules and cause a health hazard to minors like her son.

Food outlets are aware of ban

A staff at Al Madina Supermarket in Al Qasimia said they do not sell energy drinks to minors, but Arab children mostly demand it. "They think it gives them the energy to play football or other sports and also helps them to stay awake all night to play electronic games," he said. A staff at Rado Supermarket said children somehow find ways to buy drinks - they send an adult or lie about their age. 

"Some of them threaten us to sell them the products. The common consumers of the energy drinks are teenagers from 14 to 18 years old," he said. 

Emergency cases 

Hospitals do not have specific statistics of children falling ill due to consuming energy drinks. 

Officials at Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah and Khalifa Hospital in Ajman said they don't have statistics because parents do not inform doctors of the reason behind the illness. "Only after the doctor questions the child do they find out that he had been consuming energy drinks without the knowledge of the parents," they said. 

There have been eight to 20 cases related to energy drinks at Khalifa Hospital. A recent case at Al Qasimi Hospital involved a teenage boy who consumed energy drink mixed with a latte. "The boy almost lost his life as his heart simply couldn't cope with the amount of caffeine in the beverage," said the authorities.

Dr Romaisa Sadequ Khan, a family health specialist, said many parents are not aware of the adverse effects these drinks have on children. "In order to curb the phenomenon, the banning decision should be supported by the parents who must first be educated about the side effects. According to recent studies, energy drinks contain around 75mg to 200mg of caffeine per serving. It is more than double the 34mg of caffeine in coke. Excess consumption of caffeine can lead to negative health effects such as nausea, sleep impairment, cardiovascular issues, and nervousness," she said.

"The quantity of caffeine in energy drinks could result in elevated heart rates, hypertension, anxiety, headaches and interrupted sleep. Minors should not have energy drinks, while adolescents should not consume more than 100mg of caffeine a day," she cautioned.

Afkar Abdullah

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