Prime Energy is a new caffeinated drink created by social media celebrity, podcaster, and professional wrestler Logan Paul. The five flavors—Blue Raspberry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry Watermelon, Orange Mango, and Tropical Punch—are sweet as candy, though they contain no sugar.
They do contain 200 milligrams of caffeine. This has made Prime Energy a target of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), who is demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate the beverage company for targeting kids with a product that poses "a serious health concern."
"One of the summer's hottest status symbols for kids is not an outfit, or a toy—it's a beverage," said Schumer, according to The Associated Press. "But buyer and parents beware because it's a serious health concern for the kids it so feverishly targets."
As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted, Schumer's ire is incredibly misdirected.
For one thing, cans of Prime Energy have warning labels that explicitly say the product is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18. Yes, the beverage appears to be popular with kids, but that's because Paul happens to have an especially young audience on YouTube. Why a specific social media personality is producing videos that resonate with kids is not a matter for federal health bureaucrats to adjudicate.
Complaints that the flavor names and brightly colored cans are designed specifically to ensnare children are reminiscent of similar arguments against vaping. Regulators frequently claim that flavored e-cigarettes are targeted at kids, even though many adults enjoy them—even preferring e-cigarettes to smoking tobacco, the latter of which is significantly more harmful.
But even if kids are drinking Prime Energy—despite the warning label—this is no reason to panic and involve the FDA.
Besides, the drink's caffeine levels are not as concerning as Schumer would have you believe.
Reports by CBS and other media outlets have stressed that the amount of caffeine in a Prime Energy drink "is equivalent to six cans of Coke or two Red Bulls." That certainly sounds like a lot, but compare Prime Energy to coffee. A Starbucks brand K-cup has about 100 milligrams of caffeine, and a venti coffee—the largest size—has about 400 milligrams. That's twice as much caffeine as a can of Prime Energy. But nobody is freaked out about teens drinking too much Starbucks.
That's because the freakout over Prime Energy is actually just a new permutation of the broader panic about social media. Bureaucrats and busybodies are desperate to find any evidence that kids scrolling through Instagram and TikTok are negatively impacted by the experience. A popular social media figure selling a new energy drink strikes many legislators and reporters as nefarious by default, even if the product in question is no worse than what's already on the market.
"The research suggests energy drinks carry no more risk than other caffeinated beverages children can readily access," says Guy Bentley, director of consumer freedom at the Reason Foundation, which publishes Reason. "If children are under the illusion this is a health drink, parents, schools, consumers, and their doctors are well-placed to correct any misperceptions without requiring federal officials to spend more time on TikTok."
Here's hoping that the FDA ignores Schumer's plea.