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Sandra C. Jones

Sandra C. Jones

University of Wollongong, Australia

Title: Harm maximisation in a can: Young people and alcohol energy drinks

Biography

Sandra C. Jones (BA, MBA, MPH, MAssessEval, PhD) is the Director of the Centre for Health Initiatives, and a Professor in the Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences, University of Wollongong. Her research focuses on the relationship between media and health, and she has conducted extensive research into the nature and effects of alcohol advertising and marketing. She has published more than 120 refereed papers and been awarded in excess of $4 million in research funding.

Abstract

Alcohol energy drinks (AEDs) are a recent entry to the ready-to-drink (RTD) market, but there is an absence of research into the reasons young people consume these products and their consumption-related experiences. We conducted two studies with young people in New South Wales, Australia. The first, consisting of 12 focus groups with 12 to 17-year-olds and a survey of 1,263 12 to 17-year-olds. The second, consisting of series of focus groups with undergraduate university students in a large regional city in New South Wales. Alcohol-energy drinks were a popular product among adolescent participants, who stated that energy levels and ‘fun’ increased when drinking these products and showed limited awareness of the potential harms from their consumption. Both focus group and survey participants identified similarity to soft drinks as a primary appeal of these products. Participants reported that AEDs were very popular among teenagers, attributed mostly due to their ability to provide the consumer with a lot of energy while also drinking to feel the effects of alcohol. The university participants reported a number of benefits of AED consumption, many of which were similar to other RTDs, such as taste and image. However, the primary benefits of AEDs related to their capacity to wake the drinker up at the beginning of the evening and facilitate partying and drinking over a longer period. Many of the participants reported experiencing or observing negative effects from drinking AEDs, some quite severe, but this did not appear to act as a deterrent to their consumption.