Darius Elias’ crusade to ban energy drinks from Yukon schools met an ignominious end November 3.
The Liberal MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin wanted to ban these popular, highly caffeinated drinks from Yukon schools, and to outlaw their sale to youth.
The drinks have been blamed for the deaths of several North American teenagers with heart conditions. Health Canada recently expressed concern that the drinks may have induced seizures in several cases.
One can of Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine – the equivalent of a cup of coffee. The product label advises only consuming one serving per day.
Elias compares the drinks to cigarettes.
“Until we know the full effect of these chemical cocktails, we should control it like we do other harmful substances. Until we know the long-term effects, we should at the very least keep it away from our children like we do cigarettes.”
But his proposal didn’t win the support of the Yukon Party government. Glenn Hart, the health minister, said that educating youth about the potential dangers of the drinks is a wiser solution than an outright ban.
“I worry a little about creating more crimes out of behaviour that is unwise, unhealthy and harmful in other ways,” said Hart. “Fundamentally, I believe the government should intrude into people’s lives as little as possible and only resort to criminalizing behaviour when it is absolutely and demonstrably necessary.
“It seems reasonable to insist that if there are other measures that should be done, they should be tried first.”
Hart also warned that such a ban could create a slippery slope.
“Do we stop at energy drinks? Do we deal with chocolate? Are we dealing with potato chips? French fries? All of these things have negative impacts when consumed in excess.”
Justice Minister Marian Horne chimed in., “I have to say that I sure enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. It gets me going. Are we going to tell people that they can’t have a coffee because they are 16 or 17 years old?”
“Anything used to excess is dangerous. If you overdrink water you can potentially die.”
And banning energy drinks could make them all the more alluring to youth, she warned. “The forbidden fruit is always sweeter.”
Education Minister Patrick Rouble gutted the motion, leaving a call to work with Health Canada “to ensure the consumption of energy drinks as being properly regulated in Canada.” But debate eventually adjourned without the motion being passed.