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The Energy Drink Revolution, Energy Drink 104: The keys to our village

Your access card, your golden ticket, your key to any successful endeavor in life is proactive awareness. Success in life – as a parent, grandparent, student; in relationships, whether business or personal; in running a home, a business, an event, a game, a sports activity, an artistic endeavor – is rooted in awareness.

In the retail, real estate, restaurant and pharmaceutical industries, being aware of your competitors’ merchandise, marketing tactics and techniques to out-perform your competitor ensures a comfortable financial survival in the marketplace.

The same business strategy needs to be applied toward a healthy and drug-free community for everyone, especially youth.

Assuming that “we” know all the ills that have the potential to do our society harm – or, worse yet, the belief that tunnel-visioning oneself and one’s family is best – will catch any concerned parent, educator or community partner flat-footed with the wind knocked out of them. Awareness is key.

Within the scope of this energy drink curriculum, and with awareness being the impetus, we polled the pulse of the Fallbrook community.

In addition to gauging the community’s knowledge and drinking patterns of energy drinks, we also asked questions regarding overall drinking habits and people’s knowledge of alcohol marketing.

What we learned was that:

• 52.3% of respondents consume nonalcoholic energy drinks.

• 41.1% of respondents are not able to tell the difference between alcoholic and nonalcoholic energy drinks.

• 19.5% of those surveyed consume alcoholic energy drinks.

• 26.7% of respondents in the 12- to 20-year-old range revealed that they have had at least one alcoholic drink in the last seven days.

• 27% of those surveyed feel that most youth under 21 have access to alcohol at house parties, and 20% feel that youth have access to alcohol in their own home.

• 30.8% of youth, between the ages of 12 and 20, like beer and alcoholic marketing on TV and the Internet.

• 40% of youth between the ages of 12 and 20 think that the advertising of alcoholic beverages in the media is creative and attractive.

These numbers should be dually read with an optimistic and a pessimistic eye.

On the one hand, the percentage of youth under 21 that admitted to having imbibed alcohol is only 26.7%; for many communities this statistic is frighteningly higher.

On the other hand, any percentage above zero is too high. Thus, as with most communities, we have an opportunity to continue to work to prevent underage drinking and any other activity that would diminish the community’s risk of being invaded by drug use.

Parents, educators, law enforcement and community members must remain vigilant and aware of the current trends that are circulating among children and the young “tween” demographic.

According to the survey, 62.8% of 12- to 20-year-olds can tell the difference between alcoholic and nonalcoholic energy drinks, versus 37.2% of the those in the 21-plus age groups.

Be aware that large alcohol companies are not the only entities using grassroots and viral marketing to target children and teens. Over the past few years, media outlets in some states have reported that drug dealers are tailoring their products to be more attractive to younger users.

In the same manner that retailers update their merchandise and remodel their stores to appeal to a new generation or demographic, drug dealers have revamped their “product” to make it look and sound more attractive and, in some cases, priced it competitively at $2 to $3 a hit.

Toxic and deadly drug mixes involving heroin and methamphetamine are two examples that come to mind. Sources in Texas report finding a product called “Cheese,” a mix of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM. There have also been suggestions that crystal methamphetamine has been mixed with flavoring to form a drug called “Strawberry Quick.”

Alcoholic energy drinks are one example of a product that has been marketed in such a deceiving way that, for a while, it went unknown by a majority of parents, educators and law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The “Energy Drink Revolution” series of articles has offered information to raise awareness on this issue in the community with the intent that citizens affix this awareness onto their key-rings. Unfortunately, there are and will continue to be new toxic threats to the health and wellbeing of this community’s young.

Be watchful; be aware. Fallbrook is a village that prides itself on community and it is through awareness that we all can achieve a safe and healthy community.

John Lopez is youth coordinator for the North Inland Community Prevention Program in Poway.

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