I want to ban energy drinks at my office

A reader writes:

I am a newly appointed manager of a small community music company in the UK. We work with vulnerable young people and adults and we employ a number of young creative apprentices.

I am particularly concerned about the creative apprentices’ consumption of energy drinks. I have a background in youth work and have witnessed the negative affect misuse of energy drinks can have on young people.

Energy drinks can not be consumed by people under the age of 16. We work with young people under the age of 16. I believe if the young people we work with see our employees drinking energy drinks, we are then actively promoting the daily use of energy drinks to them. I believe I have a justified argument to ban the consumption of energy drinks at our workplace because of the people we work with and the example we need to set. What are your thoughts? Are there any legal obligations I need to be aware of when implementing this type of ban?

I can’t speak to UK law, but here in the U.S., that would be legal to do. And it’s not crazy to say that because you work with vulnerable young people, you’re trying to model healthy habits (or at least not model unhealthy ones).

That said, as a next step, rather than instituting an outright ban, why not talk with your staff about the issue and get their input? They probably have insights worth considering, and if nothing else, if you do decide to move ahead with a ban, people are likely to feel better about it if they know that they had a chance to give input first. (That means that it should be a genuine conversation though — you have to really be open to hearing their opinions.)

{ 241 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    An outright ban seems overly stringent. I like Alison’s suggestion. I think people will be more responsive to “I have issues with employees’ energy drink consumption because of their effects on our target demographic because of [valid medical reasons]” versus “No one can drink Monster here ever.” Perhaps you can reach the compromise that employees can’t drink energy drinks when dealing with clients?

    1. KarenT*

      I was thinking along the same lines. No energy drinks in the office where clients can see, but if there is a private lunch room perhaps they can still be consumed there. I think in the situation the OP describes, a ban is not unreasonable but it would be nice if the employees could be met half way.

      1. Juiced*

        It could even be as simple as putting it in a separate bottle and still allowing it at their desks. The energy drinks I occasionally consume (sugar-free, zero-carb) are clear and could be mistaken for Sprite.

        1. Lynn*

          Agreed–ban the can, not the drink. Everyone has a thermos or a mug or a bottle. It would work just fine without being heavy-handed.

          1. Sasha LeTour*

            One of our clients is a national coffee chain whose executives are sometimes milling about the office, and our HR feared they would be offended by staff drinking beverages from their #1 competitor, who is very popular in the NYC metro.

            First they tried an outright ban, but that backfired – managers who’ve been there forever and knew they’d never be disciplined for doing so would retaliate by purchasing jumbo cups of coffee and flaunting them. Realizing that people are very attached to their AM caffeine delivery system of choice, they finally decided to ban not the beverages from this competitor, but the cups, and people became much more willing to comply. And compliance shot up even higher when HR got Facilities to provide us with stacks of paper cups stamped with the client’s logo.

            Half the staff now mills about clutching our client’s cups with the much more beloved competitor’s coffee in them and the client is never the wiser. I think it’s hysterical. As for me, I switched from the slightly overpriced competitor’s coffee to drinks from the new coffee truck outside my stop on the uptown Broadway line. Since “my guy” uses generic cups with a swirly pattern, it’s never been an issue – and since he knows me by name, has my custom order down pat, and starts prepping my cup before I’m even fully out of the train station, I’m drinking the best-tasting coffee I’ve had in my life and saving $2 per cup to boot!

        2. VictoriaHR*

          Yep. Spring for some company-logo’ed drinking cups with straws, and tell them if they are going to drink those things, that they need to pour them into the cups first. No cans with the brand name showing allowed.

        3. Sara M*

          This is an awesome idea. I think the employees will respond much better to this than to an outright ban. And it accomplishes what you want.

        4. TheSnarkyB*

          This sounds like a very slippery slope to me. If the company were to advocate that, they’d have to find a way to have the employees be transparent about it and send the message “We didn’t want to be promoting the brands openly to the younger clients, but are still ok with drinking them in moderation.” as opposed to “oh this? Nothing, just Sprite. Don’t worry about it.” Because kids are smarter than you think and they’ll see the difference, smell it, or otherwise realize, and then you look so sketchy, and also kind of like a closet addict throwing Bailey’s in the coffee mug, so don’t put yourself in the potential position of having to explain yourself and look so shady.

          1. Meg*

            I’ve never asked someone what they were drinking out of their cup, as a client or a coworker. You don’t have to lie and say it’s Sprite; you don’t have to address it with the client at all. As far as sending a mixed message, the difference is that you’re an adult and can legally buy and consume energy drinks and once the client turns 16, they too can buy and consume energy drinks too. The brand doesn’t have to be “in their face” and drinking the contents out of a cup vs the provided marketing container with the brand solves that problem.

            Personally, I wouldn’t be drinking anything in front of a client that I wouldn’t or couldn’t offer myself. I wouldn’t be drawing any attention to my cup as it would be out of sight and out of mind when dealing with clients anyway.

    2. Anon*

      Agree with this. Also, maybe even take it a step further and address that you want to model general healthy habits in front of the young volunteers by keeping certain things to employee-only areas, throw out energy drinks as an idea, and be open to input for other things. I think she’d get some pushback for only imposing the new rules on energy drinks when there are probably employees engaging in habits just as likely to lead to serious health consequences. I’d be pretty annoyed if I were an energy drink drinker and couldn’t have my tiny redbull when someone next to me was slurping a Big Gulp of coke, for example.

      I guess this could backfire with every affected employee throwing out someone else’s habit and trying to get coffee, tea, water in a not-BPA-free bottle or whatever else banned. Hopefully the employees are reasonable enough to stick to things that are documented health risks for young people.

    3. Question Mark*

      I don’t like this at all. Let people make their own choices and consume what they want. To me, banning certain beverages because you don’t agree with drinking them crosses a pretty big line. Where do you draw that line? What about Coffee? Soda? Fast Food? Cookies? Chips? None of these could necessarily be considered healthy for the kids either. I say let this one go.

      1. Melissa*

        It’s not about disagreeing with them; energy drinks have demonstrably negative effects on still-developing adolescents. It’s much different than a 14-year-old watching you eat a cookie or drink a Coke (both of which are fine in moderation).

    4. Sally*

      I don’t drink energy drinks but if my office were to pull something like this it would pi$$ me off to no end. What’s next? Coffee? Bottled water?

      Just have them pour the drink in a different container and call it good.

    5. Jessa*

      Or at least they need to put it in another container since, hey we shouldn’t be using open cans in an office anyway, right?

        1. dahllaz*

          One reason: spillage. Where I work drinks must have a lid to be at desks/cubicles, so there is less chance of any liquid getting on the phones and computer equipment.

          1. Jamie*

            I like that concept – although I’ve never had an issue so I haven’t implemented that.

            Apparently fear works as well as lids to keep liquid off gear. :)

  2. Ask, Yes, Ask*

    This, this is the best thing I have read today about workplace ‘policies’ advice:
    “That said, as a next step, rather than instituting an outright ban, why not talk with your staff about the issue and get their input? They probably have insights worth considering, and if nothing else, if you do decide to move ahead with a ban, people are likely to feel better about it if they know that they had a chance to give input first. (That means that it should be a genuine conversation though — you have to really be open to hearing their opinions.)”

  3. Jane*

    At first glance, this strikes me as overreaching because the employees may well be using the drinks perfectly responsibly (and perhaps not always in view of others). Then again, I wouldn’t have a problem with banning alcohol in the office while working (meaning at any time other than an actual office party of cocktail event) so perhaps this is along the same lines. I’d maybe limit the energy drink consumption to places and times when the under-16 set are not around but if it’s an open office plan and everyone can see each other all the time, that won’t work.

  4. KellyK*

    An outright ban seems pretty harsh. Would limiting energy drinks to staff-only areas be a workable compromise?

    I definitely like the idea of talking with employees first.

    Also, if you don’t want people consuming energy drinks, you probably want to make sure you aren’t creating a work environment where people need them to function. (For example, it would be a little hypocritical to ban energy drinks but regularly have people pulling all-nighters to meet a deadline.)

    1. Stephanie*

      Also, if you don’t want people consuming energy drinks, you probably want to make sure you aren’t creating a work environment where people need them to function. (For example, it would be a little hypocritical to ban energy drinks but regularly have people pulling all-nighters to meet a deadline.)

      +1 (Although I’m aware that might not be totally under OP’s control.)

    2. Episkey*

      It’s not necessarily the environment. I worked in an office where we had very stable, regular hours (8-5 M-F), never any overtime, never any horrible deadlines/all-nighters. One of my co-workers brought in the largest size of Red Bull can every morning and drank it for breakfast. I never said a word, but can’t imagine it’s the healthiest of habits.

        1. Episkey*

          I don’t know…I’ve heard those drinks can do bad things to your kidneys. I have a friend that had a lot of kidney issues and her doctors told her it was dangerous for her to consume them. But I’m probably biased because they taste awful to me!

          1. Jordan Friedlander*

            In 2012, The Food and Drug Administration determined that moderate caffeine intake (around 200 milligrams per day) is safe. The problem is if you have kidney issues and have a high dose of 600 mg or more per day – which amounts to about four full cans of 16oz Monsters or TWO grande brewed coffees from Starbucks, could increase your risk of kidney damage.

        2. Mz. Puppie*

          Exactly! How can you ban energy drinks but not ban coffee? Sometimes I have a hot or iced coffee in the morning and sometimes I have a sugar-free energy drink instead. They give me about the same amount of caffeine. I think OP could ask that all drinks be in opaque containers, but a ban seems really weird to me.

      1. KellyK*

        Oh, of course. I didn’t mean to imply that it definitely was the environment, just that it can be a factor.

      2. UK youth worker*

        My brother eats a Mars bar for breakfast pretty regularly. Definitely not a healthy habit, but he’s an adult and can make that choice. I think it would be weird if his colleagues started commenting on the healthiness of his food choices. I work with several smokers but it would be odd if I told them they were risking lung cancer. They’re adults, they know this already.

          1. Judy*

            I did have a co-worker once who regularly (maybe weekly, I wasn’t keeping track) had a Hostess Ding Dong and Diet Coke out of the vending machine for breakfast. He did joke about it, “Breakfast of Champions!”, as he was walking in to our cubicle.

            1. KKB*

              That is funny, my “Breakfast of Champions” is (was) the hostess orange cupcakes and a small container of whole milk!!

        1. Episkey*

          Exactly, which is why I mentioned I never said a word. Sometimes I’d catch a glimpse of that ginormous Red Bull and internally think to myself, “OMG disgusting!” But out loud, I’d say, “Good morning Jane!”

        2. RobM*

          But you’d question their judgement if the smokers openly smoked in their office while interviewing the young people that they’re working with, presumably?

      3. Angora*

        I had a co-worker years ago that drank Red Bull all day long and wouldn’t eat. Her hands would be shaking by 2 p.m. along with a nasty temper. I have mixed feelings about banning the drinks, to me it’s too much like policing your employees eating habits. I like my one energy drink a day or a latte with an extra shot of espresso and would be seriously offended if someone told me not to bring it into the office.

        But my current supervisor does the same thing my former co-worker did … energy drinks and no meals. Nasty Temper. I think both women had/have eating disorders, skinny as everything and you never see them eat or see evidence of food in their offices. . In my opinion I would either require the cups so no logo’s are showing or not say anything at all unless you suspect someone is misusing it and it’s causing a change in their personality. But even then it’s limited what you can say to one particular individual. Am curious if one can suggest to an employee that you suspect their short temper may be caused by overuse of energy drinks or caffeine? Or can you just comment on the change in temperament and ask them to address the cause and change the behavior?

    3. Melissa*

      I agree with you about the outright ban but nobody *needs* energy drinks to function. People pulled all-nighters before the advent of energy drinks, and plenty of people work all nighters/long hours without drinking them – or much caffeine at all.

  5. Episkey*

    I happen to think those energy drinks are disgusting, so it wouldn’t bother me — but you are a new manager and coming in, banning something outright that multiple people are consuming seems like it would breed some malcontent. I understand your reasoning, but perhaps a softer approach might be smarter in the long run. I like the idea of banning when the younger kids are going to around. I’m assuming they are in school for most of the days, so they are only around in the early afternoon/evenings & weekends?

  6. Jillociraptor*

    When I worked in a nonprofit that did direct work with high school age kids, we all made an effort to model a variety of healthy/professional behaviors–professional clothing when we were on-site with them or having a meeting with them (even though the office itself is typically very casual), selecting nutritious foods and drinks when we eat together, visibly silencing our phone before we start the meeting, all that stuff. It worked because our managers did exactly what Alison is recommending and talked about our organization’s vision for the interactions we had with our students. What did we want them to see? How would we feel if they replicated our behavior, at their age?

    This way it feels less like “your choices are bad and you should feel bad!” and more like an investigation of how your work values permeate all your choices, which is probably motivating for people who choose to do the work you do.

    1. Mike C.*

      There’s a real fine line between “values we want to portray” and “moralizing paternalistic overreach”.

      1. Evan (in the USA)*

        If your portrayal gets too explicit, I could see that becoming a concern. But I think it’d be difficult to paternalistically overreach if your staff are just modeling the behaviors in themselves.

    2. Joey*

      That sort of sounds like it was all for show. Wouldn’t it have been better to be realistic and show kids you don’t have to eat healthy 24/7 to be healthy?

      1. AdminAnon*

        Sure, but often teens have a harder time comprehending those distinctions. Their pre-frontal cortexes are still developing and sometimes the rational thought process between having one cookie as a treat and “Oh, wow, these are great–let’s eat the whole package” is just not there. That’s why so many schools and youth programs have hard and fast rules. It’s so much easier to deal with black-and-white than shades of grey, especially when dealing with groups of kids vs one-on-one interactions. Of course, YMMV; everyone develops at different rates.

        Just a thought :)

        1. LBK*

          This is a whoooole other topic but I personally find hard and fast rules set kids up for failure when they enter a world where no one is controlling their behavior anymore. It prevents them from learning moderation.

          1. AdminAnon*

            I would certainly agree with that in a one-on-one situation, such as parenting your own child. However, when (and this is an example based on my job) you’re in a youth shelter with 30 kids ranging in age from 12-18, it’s a thousand times easier to have one solid, consistent set of rules than to try and keep up with a multitude of exceptions. Learning moderation is great and it’s definitely a necessary skill, but in situations like OP’s, teaching life skills is not the main objective.

        2. the gold digger*

          sometimes the rational thought process between having one cookie as a treat and “Oh, wow, these are great–let’s eat the whole package” is just not there

          I am definitely not a teenager and I experience this as well, which is why before I was married, I just didn’t have fun food in my house, as it was a lot easier to resist at the store, when I would be shocked at the price, than in my kitchen, when it was singing its siren song to me.

      2. Jillociraptor*

        Maybe, but all professional behavior is essentially a performance, isn’t it? You’re always managing the impressions of your clients and colleagues. I choose not to do a lot of things at work because it’s not in alignment with the relationship I want to have with the people I work with, even adults.

        One thing I should have added is that the “show, don’t tell” model really isn’t as useful with kids as you’d hope. Of course kids are watching your every move, and with teenagers they’re very highly tuned to anything that feels like hypocrisy, so you have to watch yourself extra closely, but what’s always more impactful is opening the door to talking about why.

        It’s really important to be intentional, is my point. I don’t think it’s a fair assumption that kids would look at my typical diet (or more accurately, the very narrow picture of it they see when I’m working with them) and take away, “Ah yes, I see that Jill sometimes eats vegetables and sometimes eats bear claws. Sounds like moderation is the way to go!” I can tell you from experience that what happens more often is “But MO-OM Jill eats bear claws ALL THE TIME WHY CAN’T I.” It’s a developmentally appropriate response, per AdminAnon’s comment below.

    3. OriginalYup*

      I really like the way you presented this as a conscious, intentional example. That way, the kids can mentally contrast and compare as they start to gain more experience with other workplace environments. If they’ve never had any exposure before, it’s a good baseline. And if they have some experience, they can evaluate for themselves what kind of impression the various behaviors make.

  7. Anya*

    This is the most absurd thing to me! How on earth is it that kids are banned from consuming energy drinks in a country where people drink tea all the time? The “energy” from these drinks is basically due to caffeine, so there is no difference between having a few cups of tea or coffee and downing an energy drink—except that the latter is full of artificial ingredients. Ban the drinks and any kid who wants a boost can just get the exact same thing from tea or coffee with a lot of sugar. I personally find those energy drinks to be bloody awful, but this is ridiculous.

    1. Anya*

      *Not to mention, if I was a teenager and my job put this ridiculous rule in place, I’d just pour my drink into a juice or water bottle. What is OP going to do, impromptu bottle inspections?

        1. Traveler*

          Red Bull/Monster do have a specific smell though (that I find repulsive personally, which is why I notice it).

            1. Traveler*

              Interesting. I wonder if its one of those things like cilantro where its good/bad depending on your taste buds/sense of smell.

            2. Jordan Friedlander*

              I have gotten a chance to play with most of the ingredients of energy drinks by themselves ( one of the benefits of running a strange caffeine blog), and found that by far, the smelliest ingredient in all of the supplements in common energy drinks is the B vitamin complex – which is incidentally what gives so many of them that icky chalky flavor too. The powdered food grade stuff is absolutely revolting to taste.

              Guarana actually tastes awesome (a little nutty and fruity), and taurine tastes like absolutely nothing at all. There is also a whole lot of bitterness coming from the sweeteners or lack of them (sucralose is a big culprit) in diet varieties.

              1. Jamie*

                That’s fascinating. I’m not a fan of the regular sized drinks, but I don’t mind the 5 hour energy shots now and again and it’s weird but there is a very familiar after taste. When I was a kid in the 70’s if I needed penicillin it was the color of Pepto Bismal, but had a cherry flavor. It wasn’t horrible but a very distinctive medicinal taste. 5 hour energy has that same taste in the background.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking about that too–looks like a lot of drinks (like some big Starbucks beverages) often have more caffeine in one go, too. Here’s an interesting site with caffeine info for a lot of drinks (I found it most enlightening to sort by caffeine dose):

      That being said, there might be a culture of consumption that makes the way people are using energy drinks a problem in a way that coffee, tea, and colas aren’t.

      1. Niki*

        Yah. Energy drinks are abused more I think. You can die if you drink too many of them. While I am sure some of Starbucks drinks have way more caffeine than we probably think, energy drinks have wayyyyy more caffeine, which can make it dangerous if you are not careful, especially if you have a heart arrhythmia.

        1. LBK*

          You can die if you drink too much coffee, too, and the entire point of fposte’s post is that energy drinks DON’T have a notably higher amount of caffeine than most coffee drinks.

        2. LBK*

          Quick follow up – based on what’s on the site fposte linked, Red Bull actually has HALF the caffeine by volume as coffee. Your comment is way off regarding the relative dangers.

            1. Niki*

              I will admit that it is true that you can of course die from drinking too much coffee. So it was a weak argument to include that.

        3. Jamie*

          But the list she posted shows a Starbucks Grande Coffee with 330 and the highest Monster is 240. Red Bull lower, most of the Monsters lower. My personal favorite – 5 hour energy – has 200.

          They don’t have more caffeine than some coffees – so personally I think it’s silly to ban one and allow the other. If it’s about modeling behavior and they also don’t allow the staff to smoke where kids can see them, fine, but that’s a reason to limit it to areas off limits to the kids or put it in another container.

          Limiting what the kids can see is one thing, banning it is policing what adults eat and drink at work and if it’s because of the caffeine then one without the other is indefensible.

          Soda has no redeeming health benefits, is that banned as well? As a habit which I assume you wouldn’t want kids to emulate, but moderation is a different story. I don’t understand why this is the line being drawn.

          To the OP – The fact that kids under 16 can’t drink it is completely irrelevant, though. Kids under 16 can’t sign a contract to buy a car but it’s okay if they know you’re employees have them. Kids under 16 shouldn’t have children of their own, but your employees shouldn’t have to banish pictures of their families from their desks. Adults can do some things minors can’t do and that’s no reason to factor it into a ban.

          1. Anna*

            If you do outreach and work in programs that deal closely with young people, modeling is important. I do and the ban on energy drinks makes perfect sense to me, even though I’m not sure it’s enforceable. It’s also a matter of removing that divide between “Do as I say, not as I do”. Removing pictures of family doesn’t fit this because if you have a family you could reasonably be modeling “waiting until you’re financially stable to have a family”. The car example is also not applicable because there are many reasons you can’t enter in to a contract when you’re that young, a car is just one of them. It has more to do with the ability to make informed decisions and not being taken advantage of, which doesn’t really fit in with this line of reasoning.

            1. fposte*

              Though if by “young people” we mean “minors,” the staff is probably getting more benefit from the policy than the clientele, because it’s the 18-25s that seem to be presenting with the health problems and deaths when it comes to energy drinks.

              1. Anna*

                I work with 16 to 24 year olds, so we deal with minors and adults. A real world example is that all the facilities similar to where I work have banned tobacco use. Some of the staff use tobacco (and I know tobacco has more evidence of health risk than energy drinks), but the point is to model no tobacco use for the minor AND adult clients, so on our center there is no smoking area for staff. Staff who smoke must leave campus to do it. Other centers do have smoking areas for staff, which makes no sense to us because if you’re modeling no tobacco use, this sets up the exact “Do as I say, not as I do” situation I referred to above.

            2. Jamie*

              I see what you’re saying, although I disagree.

              I do think modeling is important and there is nothing wrong with a workplace banning whatever they feel is inappropriate – but I don’t think it’s wrong for kids to understand that there are some things that are okay for adults that aren’t okay for them.

              I don’t work with children, so my only experience is as a parent, but I didn’t forbid people to have a glass of wine or a beer around my kids just because they were too young to drink. Ditto my coffee at home, or not having a bed time or whatever. They understood that rules are different for kids than adults.

              That said I wouldn’t have exposed them to people who abused alcohol or whatever. And I never had a cigarette around them, but my husband would smoke on the deck before he quit and they understood that some people do things I don’t ever want them to do themselves.

              Most schools and hospitals have rules about not smoking on campus and I think that’s great. As a kid I remember the billowing smoke coming out whenever the door to the teacher’s lounge opened.

              I guess I don’t see the issue in this case because it seems to be the simplest answer is to have employees use other cups. That way they aren’t being micromanaged as to their beverages and the kids aren’t exposed to it.

        4. Felicia*

          I think it’s that it’s common to drink energy drink after energy drink in a short period of time, particularly younger people, while they’ll probably just stick to one starbucks drink a day. I have heard a lot of stories where someone died drinking them.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              I’ve only read stories about people dying after drinking red bull cocktails. Alcohol thins the blood and the red bull increases heart rates.
              But I don’t think they need to worry about that at the office.

            2. TL*

              I think there were some legitimate (but I’m not going to verify) stories of people binge drinking with energy drinks and consuming waaaayyy more alcohol than they normally would’ve, because the energy drinks were off-setting some of the effects of the alcohol. Which, yeah, stupid, but I think the problem there lies within the binge-drinking and the consumption of energy drinks so that you can binge drink more than you normally could, not the energy drinks themselves.

            3. Kelly L.*

              I hadn’t seen this either. This is actually the first I heard of them being considered dangerous, TBH! I just thought they were bitter and yucky. :D

            4. Melissa*

              Having worked with college students, I’ve seen/heard of it a lot. Especially during finals and midterms, or amongst student athletes. They’ll drink far more energy drinks than are advisable in a short period of time.

          1. Jordan Friedlander*

            And those are exactly that – stories.
            Healthy people who do not have heart problems do not die from energy drinks – like they would not die from coffee drinks. A report on caffeine consumption among the U.S. population commissioned by FDA indicated that teens and young adults ages 14 to 21 years consume, on average, approximately one-third the amount of caffeine as people over 21 – about 100 milligrams per day – and that most of their caffeine consumption is from beverages other than energy drinks.

          2. Katie (not the Fed)*

            My former coworker’s teenage son and his friends get “drunk” off energy drinks – slamming 4 or more in the course of an evening. From their descriptions it provides a good high and they don’t have to ask someone to pull liquor for them.

        5. Laura*

          But some energy drinks have very low liquid volume relative to caffeine. Red Bull may not have been the target.

          Sort by mg/fl ounce and the top I-don’t-know-how-many are “energy drinks” and five have more than 300 mg of caffeine *per fluid ounce*. (“Pure Liquid Caffeine” appears to be a brand name, and contains water as well as caffeine.)

          “Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks.” (from the Mayo Clinic)

          To get the 539 mg of caffeine in a Starbucks Discoveries Caffe Mocha, you have to drink 50 liquid ounces of coffee. Contrast that to downing less than two liquid ounces of some of those energy drinks.

          Overdosing with the energy drinks is a lot easier.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t want to dig too much into hypotheticals, but it looks like all but one of those higher on the list are shots, not full drinks. That means a) it’s probably more well understood that you’re not supposed to pound a bunch of them in a row, and b) it’s less likely a kid is going to spot someone in the office drinking one. It takes 2 seconds, it’s not the same as having a Monster can sitting on your desk for an hour while you drink it.

            1. Jamie*

              Exactly – they are shots. You either dump them into juice or whatever or you do the shot.

              I don’t like the taste of the energy drinks proper so when I do use them I do the shot – literally seconds and if you didn’t go through my garbage can you wouldn’t know it happened. Shots are closer to taking caffeine pills than drinking energy drinks and I’m assuming adults wouldn’t to either in front of kids.

              1. Cat*

                And if the OP wants to demonstrate the dangers of caffeine pills, I’m pretty sure there is a Saved by the Bell episode that taught us a very special lesson about that and which is probably easily available on You Tube!

                1. Jamie*

                  I hate you both – I laughed so hard I have Mountain Dew sinus issues now.

                  Really hard to be dignified at work if you’re going to make me do that.

                2. Stephanie*

                  @Katie the Fed I feel like “terrible Lifetime movie” is redundant. I missed the SBTB one. I did catch the one about Warren Jeffs starring Tony Goldwyn (aka Fitz or the bad guy from Ghost). I feel like a Lifetime movie is a step backwards for him given the success of Scandal.

        1. Mike C.*

          If that’s the case, there are tons of sugar-free versions on the market. And you’d still have to ban most of the stuff on the menu at Starbucks, and fruit/juice smoothies.

          1. Natalie*

            Sure, I’m not talking about the suggested ban, just the general concern over energy drinks. My understanding is that they’re a *lot* more popular with kids than mochas or fruit smoothies so if one is concerned about a child’s sugar consumption, it make sense to look a bit askance at energy drinks.

            1. LBK*

              Speaking as a former Starbucks barista, a ton of younger kids would come in and order Frappuccinos, which are basically just rebranded milkshakes. Definitely worse for you (or at least not better for you) than energy drinks.

              1. TL*

                Frappuccinos – yummy. Basically the only thing I get from Starbucks, and I’ve never been brave enough to look at the calorie content.

                1. LBK*

                  Don’t. There’s a reason no one who works there drinks them – even before you read the nutritional facts, just learning how to make them is enough to turn you off to drinking them.

          2. Gina*

            Artificial sweeteners are banned in some countries, at least certain ones, because they have plenty of health risks. I don’t know about the UK but if they banned energy drinks to young kids they might be one of the ones banning sweet

            1. Mike C.*

              I’m not sure what this has to do with anything, as any artificial sweetener banned in the UK wouldn’t be added to any energy drink sold in the UK.

      2. Traveler*

        I was looking at this site too. I think its that things like 5 hour energy drink come in 2 oz packages, and the red bull and monster types are more concentrated. What I’ve heard from doctors is that taking too much, in too short of a period without enough water and food is what can trigger the heart attack/stroke situation. If you’re trying to stay up for a project, and you’re chugging these highly concentrated forms it can be dangerous. I think the immediate death thing is pretty rare, but I’m sure if you abuse these enough over a long enough period of time you’ll have problems. I’ve had periods in my life where I was so addicted to caffeine not having something in the a.m. triggered massive headaches (which can raise blood pressure, and all kind of other associated problems).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          A while ago, I was looking at a label for one of the five hour shots- it had 2000% plus of the daily allotment of vitamin B. This is HUGE. And it is nothing to play with at all. Yes, it will definitely cause rapid heart beat, like jumping out of your chest rapid. And that is enough to send anyone to the hospital.

          I am big on using vitamins. But there are some that you definitely do not take willy-nilly. Vitamin B is one of them. To take 2000% without talking to a practitioner, will probably lead to problems at some point.

    3. NP in training*

      I am in agreement with Anya. Banning drinks on principal without citing the actual reason is a very poor policy. Energy drinks contain B-vitamins which help the body release stored energy, which, when coupled with caffeine, produces an alert state.

      A major downside of energy drinks is when they are used to REPLACE breakfast, since generally they only provide sugar as calories, unless they are sugar free, in which case they provide basically zero calories. The first case results in blood sugar spiking and crashing, which is not healthy for the body. The latter provides no sugar, which the brain needs to function properly, so the person drinking them will generally lose weight by skipping breakfast.

      The B-vitamins are not even a factor in energy if the person gets a healthy breakfast because typically you will consume your daily value of B-vitamins by eating some cereal, and additional B-vitamins beyond what is needed by the body DOES NOT produce additional energy.

      Additionally, because B-vitamins are water soluble vitamins, consuming excess B-Vitamins IS NOT DANGEROUS. Excess B-vitamins are excreted in the urine after being filtered from the blood by the kidneys. this is why energy drinks produce bright colored urine; you are just excreting the additional vitamins.

      I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, however, I have studied some basics about energy drinks. I would be wary of forcing this on kids. I would encourage you to educate them and let them make the decision for themselves.

        1. NP in training*

          Hi the gold digger,

          I’ll be happy to clarify whatever it is you are failing to hear, if you care to elaborate.


    4. UK youth worker*

      They are not banned, some supermarkets (well, one big one that I am aware of and possibly more) have a policy of not selling certain high caffeine (I think more than 150mg/l) drinks to under 16s. It is not law, just their policy.

    5. Liane*

      About 6 years ago, our middle school forbade the students from bringing/purchasing/drinking all energy drinks on school field trips. Why? Because on one field trip for 6th graders (age 11-12, for those not familiar with USA schools) a bunch of the kids had several apiece at lunch and most got very ill.
      And no, nothing about what happened was exaggerated by some panicky adult with their own caffeine habit :D
      My son was on the trip, although he didn’t have any of those drinks because he didn’t like the taste. He told us when we asked him, after seeing a news item about it, that the incident was “that bad.”
      So no not so absurd.

  8. Joey*

    Expect a lot of pushback. What’s next, no coffee, caffeine, sodas or red no.5.

    I think what might be more realistic is not banning them outright, but prohibiting them when they are in the presence of the kids they’re helping.

    1. fluffy*

      I am totally for banning Red Velvet cake. Anything made with a whole bottle of food coloring has to be bad for you.

    1. L McD*

      That was my first thought, too. Honestly, me and everyone I know drank energy drinks before we were 16 and we haven’t succumbed to untimely deaths yet. This seems like something that would cause a lot of dissension and would quickly become difficult to enforce (as has been pointed out above).

      If you simply don’t want employees modeling the behavior, then yeah, have then pour it into another container or something like that. I guess I can see the point there, but as a kid I drank energy drinks because I was constantly fatigued and self-medicating my undiagnosed ADHD – not because I saw adults drinking them.

    2. Allison*

      I dunno if a slippery slope argument is appropriate here, there’s a big difference between coffee and some of the energy drinks out there, so its not exactly a fair comparison.

      1. illini02*

        I don’t think there really is a big difference between the 2. The end goal is the same. The amount of caffeine in coffee is higher. The only difference is the “cool” factor of Red Bull (for example) vs. Coffee. But don’t try to mask it in health concerns when the net effects are essentially the same.

      2. TL*

        I don’t think there’s that big of a difference. I drink Coke for the caffeine; some of my friends drink energy drinks (and they generally have one/day if they’re drinking them), others drink tea or coffee. This was the same in high school – I never saw anyone binge on energy drinks anymore than I saw someone binge on coffee. Neither is a good substitute for actually sleeping, but with the exception of the sugar content – which the good/badness of depends heavily on the rest of your diet – it’s pretty much 6 to half a dozen.

  9. Allison*

    Maybe it’d be less extreme to ask the over-16 crowd to be more discreet about their energy drink consumption. Or maybe offer free, healthy alternatives like green tea in the kitchen to encourage that.

    But as someone who drinks anywhere from half to 2 energy shots a day, I’d be really pissed if my company banned them. Wouldn’t care about the reason, I would be mad. I don’t like coffee, I don’t like tea, and believe me, no one wants to see me in caffeine withdrawal.

  10. Niki*

    I think it is perfectly reasonable to prohibit certain things in a workplace under certain circumstances such as the old post Alison pointed out. In this case, though, completely prohibiting it doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe if the office supplies drinks whether all the time or even if on the rare occasion, they could make a point to not supply energy drinks. Or if they have a cafeteria or vending machine they could only sell non-energy drinks. That way it makes it more difficult for everyone to have them.

  11. Joey*

    I’d also advise you to take a step back to really see if banning energy drinks contributes to your org’s mission/goals or is just something you’d personally prefer. Being in the music industry it sounds like worrying about energy drinks might be a little out in left field.

    1. Juiced*

      Agreed. I think this may be a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Are there overweight staff members in your office? People who smoke? How many vices are you going to regulate to ensure you’re modeling the right lifestyle for every child who crosses your path?

    2. annie*

      Yes, take a step back on this and see if this is something that you really should be prioritizing. It’s also worth noting that Red Bull (which I personally find disgusting and never drink) is a major sponsor of music industry events, so you may want to tread delicately here if they supply any of your funding. Even though I don’t care for the drink, my experience is that they are a pretty good company in terms of the work they do with culture and sports.

  12. Chriama*

    I think commenters are reacting to the word “ban” because adults don’t like being told what to do as if they were the kids. It’s perfectly appropriate to tell your employees not to use energy drinks where kids can see (or on days when kids are in the office, whatever). If kids are always in and out of your office and there’s no realistic ways for staff to keep the drinks out of sight (aside from hiding a can under your shirt and chugging it in a bathroom stall), then you should bring it up to your employees as a group policy.

    The general idea here is you want your staff to model healthy behaviour for the kids they interact with, right? I think you can communicate that message without outright using the word “ban” or making it sound overly authoritarian, which people may instinctively rebel against.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t think it’s the verbiage, we don’t get up in arms that vodka is banned in most workplaces – adults understand that not everything is appropriate for every workplace.

      But if you’re going to forbid something there needs to be logic behind it. Why this and not coffees with more caffeine. What about sodas high in sugar? What about candy, junk food, etc.? It’s the slippery slope people worry about – and if you’re going to forbid consumption of something as a solution to a problem it needs to be based on logic. It’s inherently illogical to ban Jane’s Red Bull and no Wakeen’s Starbucks Grande even though the latter has more caffeine.

      1. Cat*

        And if it’s the sugar + caffeine combo, you should be banning Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

        I don’t know, it kind of seems like an attempt to legislate good taste which I get but it can’t be done.

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          This exactly. I was bothered by this in a way I couldn’t articulate and you put your finger on it.

      2. fposte*

        Or supplements–one of the problems with some energy drinks is the supplements, and in the US, anyway, people widely partake of supplements that are at best poorly regulated despite their ability to do considerable harm.

        As I said, if the OP is in a place where kids really are slamming back Red Bull, I have no objection to seeking a way to model healthier behaviors on that front. But I would want to make clear that that really is a specific problem rather than something the OP has a particular issue with.

      3. KellyK*

        Yeah, I agree with you. It’s not the verbiage that would bother me if I were there, but the logic, the slippery slope, and a general feeling that an employer should have better things to worry about than the perfect healthiness of everything consumed by their employees.

        If I worked there and this ban were dropped, I’d feel like I was being treated more like one of the teenagers than like an adult employee, and I don’t even *drink* energy drinks.

      4. Fabulously Anonymous*

        “Why this and not coffees with more caffeine. What about sodas high in sugar? What about candy, junk food, etc.? ”

        Because the OP stated that energy drinks are illegal (in her country) to drink if you are under 16. I assume the other products you listed are legal. To me, this is no different than asking employees not to drink or smoke in front of those that cannot legally do so.

        1. Jamie*

          They aren’t, though. One supermarket chain is opting not to tell them to people under 16. Other supermarket chains and stores have not followed suit. It’s not a law, it’s a business choice.

        2. Sarahnova*

          Energy drinks are not illegal to sell to any age in the UK.

          I think this is a pet peeve on the OP’s part, not something that should be a policy, and she will have to acknowledge it as such. Serious health consequences from energy drinks have been from those who are combining them with alcohol in large numbers and who have undiagnosed heart conditions. There isn’t a logical basis for a blanket ban, and even if there were, adults rightly hate to have their behaviour legislated.

  13. Mike C.*

    An outright ban is incredibly paternalistic and overreaching. You aren’t their parents or their doctor, you shouldn’t be telling people what to/not to eat or drink.

    Do you monitor coffee consumption as well? What about energy drinks with small amounts of caffeine but large amounts of B vitamins? What about herbal supplements? (Well, you might not have to worry about these. I presume the UK actually regulates those.)

    A typical can of Red Bull (8.4 oz/250mL) has 80mg of caffeine. Larger (16oz/500mL) energy drinks range in the 120-160 mg. The same size cup of coffee (and really, try finding a coffee cup that holds 8oz) has around 95mg. That doesn’t even start to count the typical espresso drinks offered by Starbucks. From what I can find, 300-400mg/day is what a normal adult can consume before feeling withdrawal effects and other harm.

    Why are you so concerned about energy drinks in particular when coffee is a much cheaper and more efficient means of consuming large amounts of caffeine? Why have you not simply said “don’t drink them around the kids we work with” and instead want to go for an outright ban?

    1. Gene*

      Remember that we’re talking about the UK, and I believe Nanny State is included in the Magna Carta. :-)

    2. Fabulously Anonymous*

      But she’s not telling them what they can eat or drink. She’s asking them not to engage in an activity that is illegal for many of the clients when interacting with clients.

      1. illini02*

        Its not illegal though. Some of the grocery stores chose not to sell them, but they aren’t illegal.

      2. Mike C.*

        Even if it were actually illegal, that’s a terrible argument as I can think of tons of things that members of a business can do that are illegal (or usually illegal) for those in their late teens to do – things like practicing law and medicine, driving/flying a commercial vehicle, signing off as a notary public, voting, and so on. All of those very, very illegal for the vast majority of 16 year olds, but perfectly acceptable for adults to do in the open.

  14. Anonsie*

    I’m going to guess I’m just ignorant on the concerns behind this one, but this strikes me as misdirected. Energy drink overuse is bad for you and especially bad for kids, but I think daily intake of caffeine is ubiquitous enough and the impact is minimal enough that I don’t think energy drinks being seen by your youth clients is going to cause them problems. We had plenty of rules about modeling behavior at the two youth-oriented orgs I’ve worked for, but nothing like this.

    At the same time, a lot of the rules were things people outside the orgs would mock when I explained them because they were pretty stringent about a lot of things that people don’t consider “important.” But they were none the less details that can certainly impress on kids– especially ones that are already dealing with some sort of personal troubles. So if there’s some more backing to why this is a concern now, like you have issues with some of the youths in your group really abusing energy drinks, or your staff have those brightly colored in-your-face cans in their hand just all the time with they’re with the kids, I get it.

    1. Anonsie*

      That said, an outright ban seems like a bad idea. Just let everyone know what you’re thinking in terms of modeling behavior, and just say it should be at a minimum where the kids can see it. That seems perfectly reasonable.

  15. LBK*

    This would strike me as really weird – it seems like an extremely personal overstep of boundaries. Unless it’s somehow impacting my success at work or is somehow directly related to the image of the company (like if it were a health & fitness company or an organic food store), I wouldn’t want my employer having a say in what I consume. Do you ban or monitor anything else your employees eat/drink? Certainly eating junk food or drinking soda isn’t any better of an impression to make on your younger employees. I guess my question is where you draw the line and why energy drinks are specifically targeted when, as far as I’m aware, they aren’t any worse than a lot of other things people consume. I used to chug energy drinks daily when I was in retail and I don’t seem to be any worse off for it.

    1. LBK*

      I just realized I kind of misread the post, but I think my point still stands – unless the office has existing policies delimiting the kind of image portrayed around the kids (beyond just normal professionalism and age-appropriate decorum) it seems bizarre to target energy drinks.

  16. Chriama*

    I also think the issue with energy drinks often has a lot more to do with when and how they’re consumed (i.e. with drugs or alcohol), or with people overusing them or trying to replace sleep with drinks.
    In that case, I’m not sure an outright ban on energy drinks will be as effective as a well thought-out plan to model healthy behaviours to the kids you work with — modeling appropriate work-life balance activities, making sure whenever food is provided it’s a healthy choice, maybe even an activity campaign where you reward people for doing healthy things on the weekends (e.g. riding their bikes, going hiking).

    1. LBK*

      I was thinking something along the lines of this as well – but more like the important things to model for kids that they’re unlikely to get elsewhere are office professionalism and good work habits. Introduce them to office culture early so they can make that transition more easily later in life. Don’t try to influence their diet, which isn’t the place of an employer to do (for kids or for the people who actually work there).

    2. some1*

      Yes, mixing alcohol with a caffeinated drink can be serious because one of the ways our bodies tell us we are getting tipsy is by starting to feel tired. I saw way too many friends overdo it with vodka red bulls back in the day.

      1. dawbs*

        The logic of that never worked for me–it’s not like caffeinated alcoholic drinks are new. White russian, Black russian, irish coffee…it’s not like vodka and redbull is vastly different.

        1. LBK*

          FWIW, Red Bull & vodka is probably more palatable for most people and is a lot more likely to be had while out partying vs. sitting at a restaurant or other more low-key event – you see a hell of a lot more RBVs ordered at night clubs than white Russians.

          1. Natalie*

            Indeed. I was at brunch the other day and someone in the party next to us order a vodka Red Bull with their meal. It stuck out to me because it’s the first time I’d ever heard anyone order one in a restaurant, rather than a club.

        2. MJH*

          Kahlua has a negligible amount of caffeine. There is no coffee in a White Russian or Black Russian. The RBVs are much more potent when it comes to mixing caffeine with alcohol.

        3. Kelly L.*

          Yup. Irish coffee is a drink I’ve deliberately chosen at times because I wanted to drink but didn’t want to get tired early. (Disclaimer: I’m 36 years old.)

  17. TotesMaGoats*

    While in college I completed an internship experience at a hospital that included an outpatient substance abuse rehab facility. One of the rules was no soda. Everyone drank water or juice and it was all about modeling good behaviors. That being said, you need to come in easy with this ban. Get everyone on board with you. Don’t be a dictator about it.

  18. Leah*

    The restriction on sale to under 16s isn’t a law. It’s a voluntary restriction some grocery stores have put in place and the Code of Practice prohibits advertising aimed at under 16s (not sure whether this is a requirement or a recommendation) and labeling rules as well.

    I definitely recommend talking to the employees before enacting something like a ban. I get bouts of insomnia and the only thing that keeps me going is a mid-day energy drink. Not coffee or tea. I would recommend this doubly since the LW describes her/himself as newly-appointed. A sudden ban on energy drinks that appears by fiat will set a pretty bad tone with colleagues. For heaven’s sake, do not use, “I have a background in youth work and have witnessed the negative affect misuse of energy drinks can have on young people.” when you talk to your colleagues. It sounds like you’re talking about drugs.

    1. LBK*

      For heaven’s sake, do not use, “I have a background in youth work and have witnessed the negative affect misuse of energy drinks can have on young people.” when you talk to your colleagues. It sounds like you’re talking about drugs.

      Agreed. Unless there’s been a wave of deaths from energy drinks that I missed hearing about, that strikes me as an overly dramatic way to talk about their impact.

      1. Traveler*

        There was in 2012 – the FDA released a statement about it. That’s why there’s been a lot of concern/hype since.

        1. LBK*

          Maybe I’m looking at the wrong statement, but the one I can see on the FDA website from Nov 2012 just says they were looking into it and that there wasn’t anything conclusive linking them. It also includes this section, which lends itself to some skepticism about any anecdotal evidence:

          While FDA investigates all reports to the best of its ability, it does not always have access to all the information needed to conclusively determine the cause of the event. Challenges include:
          •reports with incorrect, incomplete or no contact information, which make following up with the complainant difficult or impossible
          •variability among the completeness of the reports. Some reports may consist only of a single sentence with little detail
          •reports that list the brand, but do not identify the specific product
          •absence of or lack of FDA access to other information related to the report, such as medical records and medical histories (In fact, some state medical privacy laws prevent FDA from obtaining medical records related to the adverse event report.)

          Complicating factors in determining the cause of a medical problem can include:
          •use of other supplements or medications at the same time
          •pre-existing or undiagnosed medical conditions
          •improper use of the product

          I know there were a lot of issues with Fourloko and that got banned as a result, but that was an alcoholic energy drink. Not nearly the same.

          1. Traveler*

            Right. That’s why I said concern and hype, as I think there are some reasons to be concerned, and a lot of hype as well. Caffeine is a stimulant, and technically classified as a drug. If abused it can have adverse health effects. I would be careful not to sound like chicken little, since I doubt most people drink that much caffeine. At the same time – I don’t know if high schoolers/college kids even realize what caffeine can do to their bodies, or the risks, besides the obvious – keeping them awake. Anecdotal, but at that age my friends and I would have upwards of 4 caffeinated beverages a day in addition to caffeine pills to stay awake for exams/projects/etc., which was probably breaching safe levels of consumption.

            1. LBK*

              Ah, sorry – I mistakenly inferred your comment to mean there was *justified* hype, ie that the report indicated they were dangerous rather than just indicating the FDA was looking into it.

              1. Traveler*

                My fault as well. Was just trying to shorten my comment, and didn’t post a link so it wouldn’t be put into moderation.

  19. just laura*

    From the NYT:

    “Many medical experts say healthy adults can safely consume 400 milligrams or more of caffeine daily, or about as much caffeine as in several 8-ounce cups of coffee or in two 16-ounce cans of many energy drinks.

    There is scant data, however, about whether such levels are safe for young teenagers to whom energy drinks are frequently marketed. Along with caffeine, energy drinks typically contain other ingredients like high levels of certain B vitamins and a substance called taurine, which exists inside the body.”

  20. UK16yearold*

    Most under 16s here drink energy drinks, and that’s not because they see adults drinking it. If it were they’d all drink tea if that’s the case, and most don’t, a lot don’t drink hot drinks at all and those who do mainly drink hot chocolate, or some drink coffee. But because they find it necessary to function at 8:30AM for school miles from home.
    As has been scientifically proven teenagers struggle to sleep before 11PM so having to get up around 6AM on 6 hours sleep, when our brains aren’t meant to function before 11 is very difficult.
    In fact the only shop that doesn’t sell energy drinks to under 16s in the UK is Poundland, and TBH I this doesn’t seem to be enforced. I reckon some of the local convenience stores best sellers is probably 35pence energy drinks to 12 year olds.

    1. Jane*

      We have a similar issue in the US with many schools starting an hour or more earlier. I started school at 8:30, but I lived within 5 minutes walking distance of my school for most of my time in elementary school and high school which made a huge difference. I can’t even imagine going to a school that starts earlier than that, but I’ve read lots of articles criticizing them so I know they are out there. I wonder if anything can be done other than drinking energy drinks or pushing the start time back (seems very unlikely that schools will do this). Nevertheless, I still sympathize with the OP’s frustration with the idea that her employees might be setting a bad example by drinking energy drinks in front of children. I’m not suggesting that a ban will stop the kids from drinking the energy drinks but I do understand the spirit of not wanting her employees to consume them when at the same time feeling strongly that consumption by the children should be discouraged.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yes! There weren’t really energy drinks other than coffee and soda when I was a teen, but if there were, I’d surely have drunk them. Couldn’t get to sleep if I went to bed early, had to wake up at the asscrack of dawn, and was in eighty million extracurriculars because that was the conventional wisdom at the time on getting scholarships. I’m so glad research is vindicating that we weren’t all just lazy, we were actually tired for a valid reason.

    1. Jamie*

      One supermarket did and two others stated they had no intention of following suit. So it’s not a law, it’s a decision made by one store. Just like CVS here just stopped selling cigarettes. They are still legal, but they made the call that they didn’t want to sell them anymore.

      And the mention 2 major retailers in Sweden banned them for under 16s due to concerns about hyperactivity and that they could be a gateway to alcohol abuse. I don’t know where the science is on either of those things. If they are talking about hyperactivity in the clinical sense I know a thing or two about ADHD and a whole lot of us know all about self-medicating with caffeine. It doesn’t cause hyperactivity, it helps control it. If they are talking about hyperactivity in the generic sense, i.e. people are annoying and jumpy when amped up on caffeine then…okay. Their call to ban it the same way you can ban self tanners because they make people orange and I don’t like when people look like Oompa Loompas. As a gateway to alcohol abuse I’ll call bs on right now. Because some use it as a mixer? Then ban water because I know a lot of people who drink scotch and water. Is there a link between caffeine consumption and alcohol abuse that’s I’ve never heard of, there could be, but then why this kind of caffeine as opposed to the other bazillion things it’s in.

      I know I’m probably sounding like a professional caffeine advocate, and I’m not. And I’m all in favor of people running their businesses how they see fit including putting an age limit on selling things – but people who are truly concerned about the dangers of caffeine should look at the science and not buy into the vilification of one type of beverage.

  21. illini02*

    Add me to the chorus here. This seems entirely too far to go. I understand modeling healthy behaviors. So I think there are ways aside from saying “No Red Bull for you”, such as suggestions people have. But it is a bit overreaching. Are you going to tell them what they can and can’t eat for lunch? Regulate how much coffee they eat? Mandate a certain weight limit? I do think your end goal is good, but your path there is extremely misguided

    1. Jane*

      I initially had the same gut reaction. Seems like a slippery slope. But then I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to think of energy drinks as more along the lines of alcohol because alcohol is perfectly fine in moderation, it’s something we even have in offices at cocktail parties etc. depending on the environment (I’ve worked at large law firms for most of my career and this is common) but it’s not something we would consume in any amount at other settings during the day because of the impression it gives. This is totally setting aside the abuse issue. I’m just talking about reasonable consumption and the appearance/impression it gives. Of course, abuse of any substances are likely banned in all workplaces (e.g. fine to drink in certain settings, not fine to get drunk or show up hung over).

      1. illini02*

        Here is the difference I see, and maybe its just based on societal norms right now. Most people see the problem with alcohol, as it clearly is a mood altering substance. As much as I can argue that I’d probably do my job better with a beer or 2 at lunch, society has decided that its no longer acceptable. Energy drinks, by definition, have the polar opposite affect of alcohol (stimulant vs. depressant), so I get why they are seen differently. Again if your issue is caffeine consumption, than ban coffee (not that I think that should or will happen), but don’t try to mask it as a health concern.

  22. Jordan Friedlander*

    A report by the FDA in 2012 mentions that people 14 to 21 years consume one-third the amount of caffeine as people over 21 (about 100 milligrams per day) – and that most of their caffeine consumption is from beverages other than energy drinks. If your problem is that too many people seem to be caffeinated, it would seem logical to ban all caffeine products from your workplace.

    Mind you, I am in an advertising/software development field which typically relies heavily on caffeine, but removing the office coffee pots would be reason enough to revolt. I would think twice about cementing your newly appointed position in a music company as the one who took away the caffeine from their office.


  23. AndersonDarling*

    Is it the Red Bull that is the problem, or glamorizing staying up late and partying? If you had employees rolling into the office looking like a mess and guzzling energy drinks in from of kids talking about how they got wasted, or stayed up all night playing X Box, then I can see an issue. Energy drinks have their place, but using them as a crutch to recover from staying up all night may be the image the OP doesn’t want.
    I’m torn about this, because kids do think that energy drinks are cool, and they don’t quite understand that you shouldn’t guzzle them like diet pepsi. And if this is a music environment, then the kids will want to mimic their mentors (more than their economics teacher).

  24. Callie30*

    People should have a right to drink what they want to drink – whether coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc. But I understand why the OP wants to set a good example for the younger people. I do personally agree that energy drinks are not good for human consumption on a regular basis, especially kids that are still growing, but I’m not going to preach to people who insist on drinking them either.

    The other issue is the question of what’s considered an ‘energy drink’. If the OP moves forward with the ban, that will have to be made clear.

    Alternative solution: What if you just banned energy drinks with the labels showing? Could employees bring the drinks in a re-usable mug or cup, etc.? Just a thought.

  25. FatBigot*

    Lets be clear; in the UK it will eventually come down to an industrial tribunal deciding whether this is “unfair dismissal”. Frankly, it would be easy for the complaining employee to make out that the policy was unreasonable in their case. For instance “I always have an energy drink after I come into work on my bike”.

    Of course, if you can stand the likely cost then go for it. Upon winning, the claimant is entitled to the basic award of 1 week of salary for every year of service. In addition the tribunal can award compensation, capped at £74,200 for unfair dismissal. However this maximum is normally reserved for really bad behavior by the employer. You would need to consult an experienced employer-side lawyer to estimate the likely compensation award in this sort of case.

    1. fposte*

      Nobody’s talked about firing anybody over this; the OP is just asking about exploring the policy in the workplace.

      1. FatBigot*

        If ultimately, after verbal & written warnings, the person continues to break the policy then they must be fired. Otherwise you do not have a policy. In the UK the employee then has the right to take you to an industrial tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal (if they have at least 2 years service).

  26. Mena*

    A ban seems overly controlling to me. Perhaps ask people to pour the drink into a cup or mug so that it isn’t obviously an energy drink.

  27. BritCred*

    Give the employees coloured drink bottles/flasks for their drinks. Then they can be drinking water or juice or caffeine loaded sugar syrup and no one knows as long as they fill them out of the eyes of the teens.

    Because people had cups of water around the place at workstations in the factory my last firm got everyone drink bottles with sports tops for safety – less spillage. But it also meant no one was commenting on whether the person was drinking soda, juice or water anymore too.

    Sorry, banning them entirely? Uncalled for. And totally Nanny State. And the person who has an energy drink is sometimes *less* of a caffeine addict than the 7 cups of coffee or the Soda drinker.

  28. GrumpyBoss*

    TIL that people other than teenagers during energy drinks. I would’ve thought that was the target market.

    1. Jamie*

      I just got tingly with genuine excitement. Like if the Loch Ness monster washed up on shore or if they finally figured out how Lizzie Borden maintained that level of rage for 90 minutes between killings. (What can I say, I have varied interests.)

      I want one – and I bet that tea tastes delicious.

  29. UK youth worker*

    Energy drinks can be sold to and consumed by under 16s in the UK. Some supermarkets don’t sell them to under 16s, but it is an individual supermarket policy not law. Worth keeping that in mind before you speak to your colleagues as you don’t want to imply a behaviour could be illegal when it is not.

    I’m not a fan of outright banning employees from drinking a (non-alcoholic) drink of choice at work, but I do think you could reasonably ask them not to drink energy drinks when young people are around. It is extremely common for youth work organisations to have the same rule for smoking or mobile phone use at work (it’s acceptable, but not when visible to the young people).

    I understand the energy drink dilemma, a colleague and I chose to ban them during a residential programme for teenagers because the consumption was getting out of hand. We had a lot of young people who weren’t allowed to drink energy drinks at home going overboard with them when the opportunity presented itself and it was disrupting the programme. But I’d still err on the side of treating staff like responsible adults and asking them to limit the drinks to times when young people aren’t with them rather than an outright ban. We do that with fizzy drinks at one of our summer camp programmes rather than asking staff to give up their Coca-Cola during what is an intense, high energy period of work.

  30. Puddin*

    I like AAM’s suggestions. How about trying to frame the discussion in the goal itself? Your goal is really not to ban energy drinks is it? My guess is that (one of) your goals is to promote better drink choices – or better health choices overall. I agree with Jillociraptor, that this involved emulating the behavior you are trying to instill. Make it easier to make those healthy choices with what you choose to bring into the environment (vending, party food, etc). Perhaps create a values statement, with one value being “sound body and minds” then walk the talk. When you show people what to do by action and a few positive words, I think you get the desired results more often than when you tell people what not to do. It is a more positive message and more concrete/definitive.

  31. Brett*

    Interestingly enough, quite a few pro sports teams (especially in baseball) have banned consumption of energy drinks by their employees. Baseball has actually had players hospitalized from energy drink dehydration (long hot games combined with the time to consume a dozen plus drinks). Many NCAA teams ban their players from drinking energy drinks as well because of the high likelihood of failing a drug test (energy shots, in particular, will get you to failing levels in three shots). You could do the same with coffee, but it is a lot easier to slam three energy shots than two starbucks grande coffees.

    So, workplace bans are not w unprecedented at all, though the reasoning for banning in this case is different.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, but you’re talking about conditions where:

      1. The health and physical performance of the “employee” is of legitimate and paramount concern to the business at hand.

      2. The employees in question are being pushed to serious physical extremes not commonly found in most workplaces.

      Folks mentioned by the OP will never face these conditions in the workplace.

      1. Brett*

        I think the baseball bans are more relevant, because only some of the employees (the players) have extreme physical conditions and health concerns from those extreme conditions. Front officer employees and coaches don’t have those same concerns.
        But, the point here is that, even when there are no legalities involved, there are workplaces that have instituted bans on energy drinks for health reason.

    2. Jennifer*

      A relative of mine supervises construction and oilfield crews. They have banned energy drinks during working hours, for the same reasons as sports teams. Just prior to the ban they had to take a worker to the ER who collapsed on a job site due to a combination of heat exhaustion and having consumed nothing but Monster Energy Drinks. Also, a NFP that I volunteer with strongly encourages us to model healthy behavior to the children we work with (9-13 yrs old), but there is no outright ban on things like soda. I think it is more palatable to everyone because it’s a choice. I haven’t seen anyone with a soda or doing something like eating nothing but candy and French fries for lunch in my group ever. Yes, I had a teacher who ate an order of fries and two packs of Reece’s peanut butter cups and a diet dr. Pepper every day. However, I think a few people would have had an issue if it had been an outright ban.

  32. soitgoes*

    The OP might want to make sure that all of the employees have easy access to water or a fridge for other types of beverages. A perk of Red Bull and the like is that they’re very small and easy to tuck into a bag or backpack, much easier to cart around than a regular-sized bottle of water. Are the “creative apprentices” university students? Are they working in the field (ie outside of the office)? These are things to consider when asking them not to drink conveniently-sized energy drinks.

  33. Anonymous*

    Haven’t had time to read all the comments so someone might have touched on this — Agree with Alison’s suggested approach to discuss rather than throw down an outright ban. Part of the discussion could be an exchange about the health impact of these drinks — what do the employees know about the ingredients? what if anything have they heard about the healthiness or not of these products? Then you get into your concerns about them — the why behind the restrictions you’d propose.

    1. illini02*

      Eh, thats still problematic. Unless the OP is going to bad all “unhealthy” products, then you are still singling out one thing. Most adults who do unhealthy things know they are unhealthy, and choose to do them anyway. Having a round table discussion won’t change that.

      1. Anonymous*

        Point taken. I don’t mean to say it would everyone stop consuming the products. Perhaps this organisation goes with the generic container solution. Just thinking some people who aren’t informed about potential health effects might be interested in this kind of exchange.

    2. Mike C.*

      One of the last things I would take from my boss is health advice. “Being concerned” isn’t meaningful when the thing to be concerned about is fairly benign.

    3. Anne*

      I’m frankly concerned that OP seems to know little about energy drinks, and that any accurate, scientifically supported answers coming from the employees would be dismissed as inaccurate or somehow not valid to the situation.

  34. Name*

    My workplace bans perfume and scented items (lotions, powders) for the sake of the scent-sensitive public. Do I like not being able to wear something I enjoy, which perks me up when I use it? Not at all, but as an adult I recognize the workplace is one of those places where somebody else gets to tell me what to do according to their brand ideals. So yeah, frame it as being interested in your clients needs and your employees might not think of you as ‘that meanie-pants newbie stuffed shirt who hates energy drinks for no reason’.

    1. Callie30*

      Hi Name – That’s a different matter though, as what people drink individually at their desks, etc. wouldn’t affect people’s allergies like perfumes often do. Strong perfumes are a different matter altogether and aren’t comparable to this situation.

      I still think the best option here is for people to put the drinks in a re-usable cup or container that isn’t marked – They can do this at their home or off work property before work or at a break – I don’t think a full ban is necessary here.

    2. nevercanthinkofagoodhandle*

      Our IT guy puffs on an e-cigarette at his desk and the smell of the vapor wafts directly into my office. When I spoke to the boss about it he said he would have a chat with the puffer. The boss followed up with me later that day to say that he had a chat with him and that the puffer seemed “open to a discussion” about it and encouraged me to go and speak to the puffer if I felt that was necessary. Holy smokes.

      But wait, it gets better…at the end of that week we were having our Friday afternoon catch-up with everyone (minus the puffer who doesn’t participate) where the boss asked for everyone’s opinion on e-ciggies in the office and the vapor they produce. Those who shared their opinions were managers and the consensus was that they had not noticed the smell themselves and so therefore they were not concerned about imposing guidelines or putting a stop to it. The big boss himself then proclaimed that until it’s proven unsafe to the air quality, or a city by-law is imposed, we might as well categorize it as perfume, or farting. I’m not even remotely kidding.

    3. Mike C.*

      I recognize that energy drinks don’t affect anyone outside of the person drinking them, and they don’t preclude a safety issue, so how is this like perfume?

  35. CAndy*

    Not sure if it has already been covered, with regard to UK employment law in England & Wales and in Scotland’s separate legal system too there is nothing stopping a manager from banning these drinks.

    1. Sarahnova*

      There’s no specific law saying an employer cannot ban energy drinks, no, but is the OP prepared to sack someone if they persist in breaking the policy? If so, as someone pointed out upthread, they could take the OP to an employment tribunal and the OP could well be ruled against. That is a long-shot (and it would take a while to get to that point), but the UK’s employment laws are in fact more protective of employee rights than the US’s, and the OP needs to consider what she means by “banned”, exactly.

      1. CAndy*

        Speaking as an LLB in Scots Law with experience of the English and Welsh systems, there is absolutely no way that if this ended up at a tribunal the OP could be ruled against.

        The UK is indeed at times more favourable towards the employee than the US is, but this doesn’t really extend to management decisions over how they want people to behave while working.

        With the usual caveats about religion, race, disability of course.

  36. AnonyMouse*

    + a lot to the advice from Alison and other commenters to make this a discussion with your staff about how best to represent healthy behaviour for the young people you work with and get their feedback rather than instituting an outright ban. In fact, I’d extend the conversation beyond energy drinks, because I think you’ll get better results (both on this issue and for the young people you work with) by making it a broader conversation.

    You could maybe call a meeting with your adult staff members and say something like, “As you all know, we work with some young and vulnerable people under the age of 16 here, and the way we act around them can influence the way they choose to behave. I would like all of us to consider ways that we can model healthy choices for the young people we support. For instance, I personally think it would be a good idea to limit obvious consumption of energy drinks in front of under-16s by choosing a healthier beverage or drinking from an unmarked thermos. Does anyone else have ideas of ways we could lead by example?”

    You may get some more good suggestions out of this, and possibly make a more significant impact on the choices these young people see. Then, if you do need to remind your employees again about your feelings on energy drinks specifically, you can remind them that you talked about this in the context of setting a good example for the under-16s, and as their manager you’re going to need them to cut back at work.

    1. MT*

      Maybe the op should ban all other items that are harmful to youths. Like candy and chips and maybe even tattoos and piercings.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I’m definitely not in favour of that. But in youth work, it’s not wildly uncommon to ask people to use stricter judgement doing certain things that are acceptable for adults but not ideal to model for kids (just look upthread for examples of people talking about policies like this in their youth work positions). The OP clearly believes energy drink use at work should be restricted because of its impact on children – I disagree, but as a manager I suppose they have that right, so I suggested what I thought was a more productive way to go about it than just saying “no energy drinks ever.”

    2. Amtelope*

      But what do you consider to be a “healthier beverage” for adults to drink? Coffee? Soda? Neither of those is “healthier” than energy drinks. Or are you seriously suggesting that it’s okay to ask people to cut out caffeine entirely during the work day? I don’t think that’s going to go over well — certainly I wouldn’t work for a company that tried to pry my coffee mug out of my hands.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I’m actually not suggesting any of that – personally, I see no problem with drinking energy drinks, for the reason you mentioned. But the OP wrote in with very strong feelings about energy drink consumption in the workplace, and unfortunately, managers often do get to set policies that seem arbitrary or unpleasant. I was actually just seconding the advice of Alison and other commenters to make this a discussion with the staff rather than an outright ban if the manager is truly set on doing something, and also suggesting widening the conversation to include actual, productive ways to set an example for the kids beyond just banning certain beverages.

  37. Illini02*

    Here is another part of the issue. I’d be willing to bet many of these kids are more fit than your staff, energy drinks or no. Its just too much to single out one particular thing that may be harmful if over consumed, and make that a huge deal. I mean this with all respect, but just let this go. Its not fair to the adults working there. It will make enemies. Its just not worth it. Its not like smoking, which is proven to cause cancer. Its a caffeine and suger, which can be found in numerous other things in the office

  38. Cassie*

    Did the OP mention how ubiquitous these energy drinks are in her office? Is it 1 person out of 20 who drinks them, or is it like 50%? If it appears like the office is sponsored by energy drinks because there are cans everywhere, I could see why the OP would want to eliminate them from the workplace, but if it’s just a can here or there, I think a ban is overkill.

    In an effort to promote healthy eating, the cafeteria in our university hospital eliminated all fried foods – so instead of french fries to go with your quarter-pound burger, you can get oven-roasted fries instead. It was a sad day when I realized I couldn’t buy french fries there (which I did every now and then). There are other places on campus that still sell fried foods (thank goodness!) and I think the hospital cafeteria still sells prepackaged potato chips and stuff… so they didn’t really eliminate all fried foods…

  39. Scout*

    I work in a school, and we have a “no candy, no soda” rule for students AND adults. It’s never seemed weird to me!

  40. UK worker*

    I’m at odds with the majority of the commenters here, but I wanted to tell the OP that I work for a very similar company, and we do, in fact, ask adult workers to model desired behaviour by not drinking energy drinks while at work/with the young people. As far as I know, no one has expressed any discontent with this policy. The policy was introduced with a presentation about what the head believes are the dangers of energy drinks for young people.

    1. Mike C.*

      Unless the head is an expert in the field of what energy drinks do to young people, why should employees believe her/his health advice? There are tons of people out there who believe all sorts of crap as it relates to health. I mean for goodness sakes, it was the UK where the infamous “MMR vaccine causes autism” scam started.

      Are you allowed to drink coffee or other caffinated beverages? If so, why is a cup of coffee with sugar ok, but a Red Bull is not?

    1. Amtelope*

      Don’t people in your office drink coffee? Some people prefer the taste of energy drinks to coffee, or don’t have access to a coffeemaker and prefer them to soda. Personally I think Red Bull tastes horrific, but to each their own.

      1. Heather*

        Yes, this. Coffee tastes completely disgusting to me, but I like my single can of SF Red Bull before breakfast. I would bet most of my coworkers drink the coffee equivalent of 3 or 4 cans a day, and nobody is accusing them of finding “sitting and working too hard” without it.

        Plus, sitting and staring at a screen all day is way more likely to have me zoning out & feeling lethargic than moving around is. It’s a different kind of tiredness.

    2. soitgoes*

      It sounds like the OP’s employees are young adults who are actively working with children. No, sitting and working isn’t particularly hard to do with or without energy drinks, but these employees are not just sitting and working.

    3. Sarahnova*

      This comes across as pretty bizarre, to be honest. It sounds like you’re trying to legislate your employees’ tastebuds. What’s it to you if they prefer the taste of Red Bull to Diet Coke, or green tea, or water? They don’t have to justify their beverage choices to you.

      What I think you meant is that people shouldn’t need a ‘boost’ to get through the working day. But your employees have caring responsibilities, and health issues, and night classes. As long as they do their work and their lifestyles are generally sustainable, it’s not your business what they do in that space either. Your employees do not owe it to you never to be tired.

      1. Sarahnova*

        And for that matter, research since the 1940s has consistently found that people can sustainably work fewer hours of mental labour daily than physical. ( It’s 6 or so for brainwork, 7-8 for physical labour.) Work is tiring.

        1. Heather*

          I’ve never heard this before & I need to Google it right now. It would explain SO much about my work habits!

    4. Jamie*

      Some people find caffeine to boost their focus, not just their energy. This seems like a strong stance to take on caffeine, something the majority of adults drink at work to varying degrees.

    5. Laura2*

      Because for some godawful reason the world is still run by morning people, meaning that those of us who are most creative and productive later in the day have to use caffeine to be functional at 9 am.

  41. the_scientist*

    I’m late to this but I wanted to add some personal experience to this.

    1). I work at a psychiatric hospital that has gone “tobacco free”. This means that clients, staff and visitors are not to use tobacco products or keep tobacco on their person or with their personal belongings on the hospital campus. The rationale behind this stems from the fact that people with complex mental illness have, overall, decreased life expectencies, and many of the causes of premature death in this population are attributable to smoking. Furthermore, addiction to nicotine can replace addiction to other substances, and can prevent or delay full recovery. The hospital also offers many smoking cessation programs. So. Is this policy invasive and paternalistic? Absolutely. Is it evidence-based? Yes.

    Secondly, a friend of mine spent the summer working at an inpatient rehabilitation program for youth with drug addictions. For the first six weeks of this program, the youths are allowed no processed foods, no sugar, no caffeine, and no drugs (I’m admittedly not sure how prescription drugs for mental health issues or other would be dealt with in this setting). So, for everyone who has mentioned that a ban on all caffeinated drinks and sugar would be the next logical step….there is actually precedent for doing that in youth service agencies.

    1. Mike C.*

      But these are music teachers, not substance abuse councilors.

      Also, no sugars and no processed food? So everything is raw and you can only eat protein and fat?

  42. emmbee*

    I’m surprised at how the majority of commenters are so offended by this!

    OP, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to enact a ban (or a policy that requires they be hidden; whatever). Just do it in the way Alison suggested — call a meeting, raise the concern about modeling behavior, and get feedback.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why are you surprised given the points raised in the thread? I think it’s important to point out that no one here (that I’ve seen) objects to the idea of keeping it out of sight.

      Why do you think it’s reasonable for an employer to regulate the food and drink you can consume in such an arbitrary manner? Energy drinks are banned, but a Pumpkin Spice Latte is perfectly fine? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

      1. Ruthan*

        Energy drinks are up for discussion because energy drinks are what people are consuming. LW can talk with her employees about pumpkin spice lattes when her employees start downing pumpkin spice lattes the gallon.

        A proposed improvement doesn’t have to solve every problem, it just has to be an improvement.

    2. soitgoes*

      To be honest, I think the phrasing of the email made the OP seem a little out-of-touch, which made the commenters think that his/her idea was a on the uptight side.

  43. Programmer 01*

    I just wanted to say that I worked in an office that was the floor above an energy drink distribution company. They’d sell people energy drinks by the flat. Programmers + energy drinks = match made in heaven.

    These days it gives me heart palpitations just thinking of drinking one, I drank so many. It really was dangerous when the energy drinks were cheaper than coffee and the tap water had a really funky taste, and people were often working double or triple shifts during crunch.

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