Visiting my best friend in San Francisco recently, I sat outside her high-end convenience/grocery store in the very affluent suburb of Piedmont grading papers. The high school kids arrived en masse, at lunch and after school. An amazing amount of candy and energy drinks walk out of that place–thousands of dollars’ worth daily. Kids walk up and throw their backpacks in a pile (not allowed in the store), and they walk into the store with their wads of cash and come out with all kinds of junk food. (These kids have money!)
One day the lead singer of the rock group Greenday was there (he is a resident of Piedmont). So to impress some of my (new) teenaged friends, who dared me, I got a photo with him. Unfortunately, the kid who took it with his cell phone emailed it to me, but I haven’t seen it! Turns out, my own teenagers tell me, Billy Joe Armstrong is the most foul-mouthed rocker alive today. Clean-cut Christian mom poses with edgy, famous, potty-mouth rockstar. That’s kind of funny, no? His kids play on the soccer teams there in Piedmont, and he and his wife were having lunch together and seem so nice. I have a hard time imagining him screaming from the stage what I’ve been told he does! (It’s shocking, is all I’m going to say.)
So I came home and read about these energy drinks the kids were guzzling by the gallon. They’re called Alcopops or “flavored alcoholic beverages” because they have more alcohol than beer! Beer has 5-6% alcohol, but these have 6-12% alcohol. Here are some examples of the alcohol content by weight:
Tilt (8%), Rockstar (6.9%), Sparks (6%), Four (6%), Joose (9-10%), Monster, 3Sum, 24, Charge, Torque, and many more. This is a $3.2 billion annual industry! No soda bottler can pass up the opportunity to jump on this growing bandwagon. And guess who drinks the most? Yep, teens aged 12-17. They consume 31% of the total amount sold. These drinks contain alcohol, which is a depressant, but also massive amounts of the stimulants ginseng, guarana, and caffeine. (And no, caffeine doesn’t cancel out alcohol. If you drink alcohol and caffeine, you’re still drunk.) And of course they are full of sugar or chemical sweeteners, plus lots of other unpronouncable chemical garbage.
Parents, beware. Are you okay with your 12-year old drinking beer? Please educate others about this. (And thanks, GSG reader Camille for sending me source material.)