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Killing the buzz on campus

Twelve Bridges Middle School cans energy drinks
By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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Lunch at Twelve Bridges Middle School is all about the caffeine fix. Gone are the milk cartons and juice boxes of lunch periods past. Today, students spend lunch buying, trading and guzzling energy drinks. But the buzz on campus is that the popular drinks won’t return with students this August. Twelve Bridges administrators have decided to put a lid on the caffeine powerhouses they say are not only a distraction, but a health hazard. So far, Western Placer Unified School District officials have not made the ban district-wide. “Energy drinks have more caffeine than a cup of coffee and more sugar than Mountain Dew,” said Twelve Bridges assistant principal Randy Woods. “We just had a student ill and throwing up (after drinking too many), and this is not the first time. It absolutely is a health issue.” Brands like Rockstar and Monster serve up 160 milligrams of caffeine – similar to a cup of coffee – compared to about 35 mg in Coca-Cola, according to their companies’ Web sites. But, unlike with java, Woods said, it’s cool for young teens to binge on energy drinks, sometimes downing several cans before class. Though energy drinks have never been available on campus, he said, kids often bring them from home or get their jolt at a nearby convenience store. Eighth-graders seem to be the most addicted, said campus supervisor Renee Triano. “They’ll drink three or four at lunch – who knows what it’s doing to them,” Triano said. “I’m sure it’s bad.” Eighth-grader Ryan Pavao could be a poster child for the caffeine craze. Outside the cafeteria last week, the 13-year-old unzipped a lunchbox bulging not with food, but four of the soon-to-be outlawed beverages. “I had six, but I drank two already,” Pavao said, popping open his third of the day. “They just taste good.” Pavao said the drinks pack a punch that mere soda can’t match. Like many of his peers, his drink of choice is Monster, followed closely by Rockstar. Other popular labels include Full Throttle and Vault, the favorite of 15-year-old Anastasia Ser. “Vault tastes good,” Ser said. “It tastes like Mountain Dew.” Another student, Moses Lopez, sipped a Monster Assault at lunch. Because he couldn’t buy it on campus, Lopez said, he had to be creative. “I gave my friend some money and he bought me one,” the 15-year-old said. “I just think they taste good.” Lopez said the friend charged him about $2 – the typical retail price for an energy drink. But in a burgeoning black market on campus, cans have gone for as high as $10, said Woods – another reason for the crackdown. While the coolness factor is hard to ignore, some students admit the jolt could come with consequences. “They really do give you an energy boost,” said Caylin Shaw, 13. “I like the green Monster, or the blue Lo-carb. But sometimes you can get too hyper and burn out easily. That’s what my coach says.” Cody Jones agreed, though he opposes the ban. “They’re good for if people who are tired,” said Jones, 13. “One bad thing is you can crash, but I don’t think it’s cool for the school to ban them.” Of course, not all kids are drawn in by the sugary allure. “I think it’s disgusting,” said Robbie Mullican, 15. “If a person grows dependent on energy drinks or caffeine in general, that’s just bad.” Mullican said he prefers to stick to all-natural ingredients. Besides, he said, he’s not convinced the drinks provide their promised energy boost at all. “Too much sugar or too much caffeine actually makes you drowsy and tired,” he said. “I’ve never tried them, but I’m pretty sure they taste gross.”