First, they came for the cigarettes…

Now some students want to ban energy drinks.


Alex of Gothenburg/Flickr

Nothing, it seems, is safe anymore on university campuses. Many campuses have banned smoking in parts or all of campus. Some have banned bottled water.

But this week, things reached a new low.

Yes, students at St. FX are proposing a ban on energy drinks.

As part of a class project, a group of students at the Antigonish university want Red Bull and friends booted into the Strait of Canso because it is, they maintain, inconsistent with a healthy lifestyle.

Sadly, such a proposal is in keeping with the recent trend towards unbridled self-righteousness when it comes to health. We have long since moved past encouraging people to eat well and get plenty of exercise. Today, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is approached as though it were a moral issue. An unhealthy choice, it now seems, is not only potentially unwise — it must be stopped.

But energy drinks are not monsters. Not even the one actually called Monster. Sure, they contain caffeine, but a can of Rockstar — my personal favourite — contains around 80 mg of caffeine. According to this data provided by the Mayo Clinic, that’s considerably less than an ordinary cup of coffee, and just over half of what’s in a Starbucks Latte. And some may be loaded with sugar, but a lot of people like sugar. It’s really catching on. And, believe it or not, there are other goods in the world besides health. Pleasure is one. And so is freedom. And so is a boost of energy when your term paper is almost due.

Part of becoming an adult is learning that almost every activity requires a balancing of benefits against costs. The joys of a night with one’s drinking buddies must be weighed against the sickness and fatigue of the morning after. Even activities like running — often thought of  as a quintessential part of a healthy lifestyle — have potential health risks in the form of joint injury and damage to the heart when done to excess. And avoiding excess, as in so many things, is the key to the healthy use of  energy drinks, too.

In a free society, banning anything (even in a limited area like a university) should come as a last resort and be reserved for only the most serious of dangers. Deadly toxins. Guns. Powerful explosives. A can of Amp doesn’t qualify.

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First, they came for the cigarettes…

  1. “unbridled self-righteousness when it comes to health” aka awareness of stuff that’s, um, bad for you. You didn’t even examine why energy drinks could be unhealthy besides looking at caffeine content of a single energy drink brand. You’re clearly biased towards a certain point of view but you need more evidence.
    Most people probably wouldn’t put energy drinks on the same level as cigarettes (which are just. so awful. oh geez), but look at what you’re fighting here: the students merely PROPOSED the banning of such drinks. It’s not like the university hired a SWAT team to dash in there and snatch every Red Bull off the convenience store shelves.
    In fact it seems as though many students support this idea! This movement seems more democratic than authoritarian as you’re making it out to be here. People would still be able to purchase such drinks off-campus anyway so it’s not like the people who really want them won’t be able to get them. They’re trying to set a good example for kids.

    • If someone proposes something stupid, is it a mistake to argue against it? Just because it is only a PROPOSAL? Come on.

      “They’re trying to set a good example for kids.” Hardly. Prof Pettigrew is exactly right that this is coming from a desire to moralize. “setting an example” would mean behaving in a way that you want others to follow, like refraining from the hated drinks yourself. And “kids”? There aren’t many kids on campus to set an example for, unless you mean the students, who ought to be able to make up their own minds.