Rockstar energy drink claims it doesn’t market to children, markets to children anyway

Nutrition
Safety

This morning the First Focus team came across a worrisome tweet from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) featuring “what looks like a clear example of [energy drinks] marketing to kids.” Sure enough, exclusive to Target, the Ronin Syndicate RC Wakeboard Boat featuring Rockstar Energy Drink is in stores for the holidays.

Energy drinks have been in the headlines after being blamed for illnesses and even a death. The family of a New York father is suing Red Bull for his death when his heart stopped beating after drinking a can of the energy drink. Congress is considering additional regulations on the industry, and a bipartisan July hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation explored concerns specific to marketing to children.

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Rodney Sacks, chairman of the Monster Beverage Corporation, claimed at the hearing that the company “does not market to children and has never done so,” despite the company featuring young athletes.  Janet Weiner, of Rockstar, complained her industry was “being demonized.”

All evidence indicates the Senators concerns to be valid. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should not consume energy drinks because they are linked to harmful effects in children’s developing neurological and cardiovascular systems. Recently, the American Academy of Family Physicians voted to push the federal government to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under age 18, citing dehydration and other concerns.

The companies themselves don’t deny the risks. A 16 oz. can of Rockstar Energy  Drink we purchased includes a warning label, “Not recommended for children…” The can contains 160 mg of caffeine (compared to 100 mg in a same size cup of coffee from McDonald’s).

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A number of energy drink companies are members of the American Beverage Association, which self regulates on marketing to children. According to the association:

Under a Global Policy on Marketing to Children, our member companies do not advertise beverages other than juice, water or milk-based drinks to any audience that is comprised predominantly of children under 12. The policy covers a wide range of marketing outlets including paid media such as television, radio, print, Internet, phone messaging and cinema, including product placement.

Apparently this policy doesn’t apply to remote control toy boats.

Energy companies are putting our children and risk by marketing their harmful product to kids. But you can take action today urging the industry to protect our kids, starting with removing the Rockstar toy boat from shelves.