Even though it’s just a small shop near the tram stop in Prague’s Petřiny housing estate, the range of sugary drinks here is more than rich in the extensive shelves. Fourteen-year-old Kryštof also chooses from it at 8:30 in the morning. After thinking for a while, he finally reaches for a Czech cola drink.
“I only buy sugary drinks occasionally when I feel like it. I haven’t bought an ‘energy drink’ in a long time,” he says while opening the PET bottle he just bought.
The saleswoman in the given convenience store confirms that a large number of children buy sweet and energy drinks from her. Often when they go from a nearby primary school. “On the other hand, they don’t buy much in the morning before school,” he states.
On the way to this school, her friends Hynek and Vilém confirm her words. “We don’t bring sugary drinks to school. Sometimes we buy them from our pocket money after school when we go out with our friends,” says Hynek. “But I don’t like energy drinks at all,” adds Vilém.
He greets thirteen-year-old Ondra in front of the school. He has been waiting in front of the entrance for some time with a sports bag over his shoulder and a floorball hockey stick leaning nearby. He confirms the words of his friends: “Sometimes someone brings an ‘energetic’ to school, but I mostly meet him in the afternoon after school.”
When asked if, as a floorball player, he has already tasted the new youth hit – Prime drink, which is officially intended for athletes, he answers: “Well, of course, several times already. I don’t like it very much, it’s terribly sweet. But almost everyone around me drinks it. Some friends even collect bottles to have as many kinds as possible.’
Prime has been on the world market for a relatively short time, but due to the influence of foreign and Czech YouTubers and influencers, it is trending among young people. At the same time, to a certain extent, it has become – considering the price of around 200 crowns – a matter of status. However, as Seznam Zprávy has already described, experts, schools and parents view it critically. And that’s because of its composition and high price.
Read details about the drink that kids have been going crazy for in recent weeks here:
In the aforementioned convenience store, they have several flavors – from blue raspberry to ice cream to tropical punch. The saleswoman is proud of this range, and says it immediately when I pick up one of the bottles on offer to examine it and look at the ingredients. “We have six types, the biggest interest is in the ice cream flavor,” he says and describes the typical customers, “children themselves buy them, but more often their parents.”
From twelve year olds to college students
That there is interest in this drink originating from the USA is also confirmed by other stores in the vicinity, which do not yet have the requested novelty in their assortment. “Several children have already asked us about it,” said a salesman in another convenience store a few hundred meters away. He says he is already thinking about ordering several flavors.
“Nevertheless, many young people buy classic energy drinks here, including smaller children around 12 years old. In addition, there are university dormitories not far from here. There are also a lot of interested students among the university students,” explains the store operator.
At that very moment, a mother and her son Tomáš pass by towards the subway entrance. “At first, I tried ‘energy drinks’ or maybe Prime a few times, but my mom explained that it’s not healthy,” says Tomáš, looking at his mom as if waiting for her approval. She adds: “My husband and I never forbade our children to drink similar drinks. We try to explain to them that they are not suitable for them.’
By coincidence, Dana, a pensioner standing nearby, hears our debate and willingly adds her opinion: “I would ban all of those abominations. Children don’t do anything, they don’t move, and then they pour this into themselves.”
The health institute also warns
Readers of Seznam Zpráv also expressed a similar opinion – perhaps less radically – in yesterday’s survey. More than 95% of the nearly 20,000 voters (as of Tuesday afternoon) think that the sale of energy drinks should be banned for everyone under 18. It will be similar to that in neighboring Poland from January next year.
Should the state ban the sale of energy drinks to everyone under the age of 18, similar to, say, Poland?
A total of 25468 readers voted.
Despite this, both the data and the experience of experts show that the consumption of energy drinks among young people is increasing. The State Health Institute also issued a warning these days.
“More than one in ten young people under the age of 18 have a tendency to consume them at risk. At the same time, drinks with increasingly higher contents of caffeine and stimulants are also appearing on the market. Therefore, I feel it is necessary to warn that these drinks are definitely not beneficial and, if the consumption limits are exceeded, they can harm children’s health,” warns Barbora Macková, director of the State Health Institute, in a press release.
However, it does not provide current data. It refers to a five-year-old study by Palacký University, which tested 13,000 schoolchildren in 230 schools in all regions of the Czech Republic. According to her, 10.9% of schoolchildren are prone to risky consumption of energy drinks, i.e. they drink them at least twice a week. More than three percent even drink an energy drink every day. Less than two-thirds of young people, on the other hand, do not drink energy drinks at all.
Consumption varies significantly between regions, while in Prague or the Vysočina, roughly eight percent of respondents have a regular and long-term interest in similar products, in Ústěk it is one in five.
The main undesirable substance in energy drinks is caffeine. “While for a healthy adult, the consumption of coffee in itself is not problematic, the situation is different for children and adolescents, because their organism is much more sensitive to foreign substances, and the safe amounts are thus lower,” warns the State Health Institute.
In addition, the use of energy drinks also affects the lifestyle of young people. Only over 40% of their regular consumers have a positive attitude towards the school. On the contrary, children who do not drink these drinks have a positive attitude towards school in almost 70% of cases. In the same way, energy drink consumers have a higher tendency to use other addictive substances such as nicotine, alcohol or marijuana.
The same, but to a lesser extent, also applies to regular consumers of other sweet drinks. On the contrary, their number in Czech society is decreasing.
According to the mentioned survey, boys drink unhealthy energy drinks much more often, namely two and a half times. The schoolboy Ondra from the beginning of the article also comments on this. “Energy drinks don’t really ‘snap’ for girls. I think it’s more suitable for guys who want to be as ‘thick’ as their friends.”