Perceptions and Knowledge of Caffeinated Energy Drinks: Results of Focus Groups With Canadian Youth

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine use, knowledge, and perceptions of caffeinated energy drinks (CEDs) among youth.

Design:

Qualitative research using focus group discussions (n = 4).

Setting:

Two Canadian cities (Toronto and Montreal).

Participants:

Youth aged 12–18 years (n = 41).

Phenomenon of Interest:

Perceived definitions of CEDs, reasons for use, knowledge of health effects, use with alcohol, marketing perceptions, and use and understanding of cautionary statements on packaging.

Analysis:

Data were analyzed using a modified grounded-theory approach.

Results:

Youth identified CEDs as products that provide energy and contain caffeine and sugar. Compared with mainstream CED brands and energy shots, youth were less likely to perceive Gatorade, Coca-Cola, and a Starbucks beverage as energy drinks, despite some ambiguity. The majority of participants believed that CEDs, including mixed with alcohol, were not necessarily harmful in moderation and that marketing was targeted toward older youth and young adults. Awareness of cautionary statements on CEDs was low; cautionary statements were perceived as difficult to find and read owing to the design and small font.

Conclusions and Implications:

Findings suggest a need to increase public education regarding the potential risks of CED consumption, including enhancements to the mandated cautionary statements, with greater attention to the impact of CED marketing on youth.

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