A small town in the State’s south west has banned the sale of energy drinks to children and teens following community concern at a spike in antisocial behaviour. People under the age of 18 will be unable to be purchase energy drinks from eight stores in Bridgetown between February and May this year as part of a study conducted by the Telethon Kids institute. The study will investigate the impact of the high-sugar drinks on the behaviour of young people, with its chief investigator and Bridgetown GP Dr Sarah Youngson saying energy drinks can have a variety of adverse physical and mental effects on young people. “The high levels of caffeine, sugar, sodium and herbal stimulants lead to a range of negative health effects,” she said. “Studies have also shown energy drinks are associated with engagement in high risk behaviours such as cigarette smoking, gambling, illicit drug use and risky sexual behaviour. “Energy drinks can also contribute to a cycle of mental ill health as young people turn to them to give them a temporary lift in energy, without being aware of the negative health impacts. “The use of energy drinks can impact on concentration at school, disengagement from learning, impulsivity in the classroom and at home, and insomnia.” She said people who excessively consume energy drinks may experience irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks, high blood pressure, headaches, kidney failure and seizures as well as associations with obesity and dental decay due to the high sugar levels. Consumers are also at risk of detrimental mental health effects including agitation, anxiety, mood disorders, psychosis and hallucinations. The research has found the average 500ml energy drink contains 14 teaspoons of sugar and 160mg of caffeine, the equivalent of two cups of coffee. As children have a smaller weight and lower tolerance to caffeine compared to adults, energy drink packaging must state the product is “not recommended to children.” Just three days into the trial, Blackwood Youth Action manager Lisa Burgess said children are seemingly unbothered by the switch and looking to fulfill their needs through different means. “They aren’t really that fussed about it, predominantly the noise has come from community members,” she said. “Having chats with the kids, they’re just going and getting Dare or Coke or whatever it is that they need.” She said the real focus should be on the reason why young people feel the need to consume the drinks. “The trial is about really having an understanding about how young people perceive energy drinks,” she said. “Why did they drink them? What is it about their school life or home life that is making young people get up in the morning and go grab a Mother before they head off to school? “Let’s explore those situations and what can be done to mitigate that sort of situation so they’re not putting their bodies at risk.” Ms Burgess said she hoped the study would help reveal the underlying causes that have prompted young people to resort to energy drinks, allowing the community to address these issues at the source. “After the trials, and we’ll examine what the findings have been about, and then make some decisions about whether or not changes need to happen and how those policies and procedures need to be changed going forward,” she said. While Bridgetown is being utilised as a sample size for the study, Ms Burgess said she hoped for positive results that could then be trialled on a larger scale around the state. Globally, energy drinks have been banned in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, while the United Kingdom have also implemented a voluntary ban on the selling the beverage to children across any popular supermarket chains.