A lawsuit has been filed against a manufacturer of ‘energy’ drinks. The suit is the result of injury (and death) of children after consuming the caffeine-laced beverage. It is logical to assume that this will be the start of regulation. To the average non-Red Bull, Cocaine(!),Monster, 5-Hour Energy, Rock Star, consumer this would seem pretty intuitive. Caffeine is a drug; a legal drug that has evaded regulation in this country. Nicotine used to enjoy that kind of status as well. Cigarettes were available for sale (or given away for free) any and everywhere. Cigarette machines eventually had little adhesive labels declaring cigarette sales being intended for people over age 18. What teenager doesn’t tremble and back away from an adhesive label? Cigarettes haven’t (slowly) shied from the teen market because of the hazards of the drug nicotine, but of the smoke inhalation. But it still makes for a plausible template.
A beverage whose very intention is to alter the body chemistry is not appropriate for children. On a good day most of us would concur with this. But we would also agree that regulating anything is just a giant pain in the behind. The beverage industry is no doubt gearing up for a fight as we speak. They will counter with examples of unregulated sources of caffeine. Charts and graphs will be exhibited declaring chocolate milk as laden with as much of the drug as a grande macchiato. Gatorade and vitamin-laced waters will enter into the arguments. Coffee carts will form a single-file demonstration. In short, a circus will ensue.
Let us assume (for the sake of all that’s decent) that parents are not purchasing caffeine-laced drinks for their children. What would be more effective (and less hair raising) than outlawing sales to children is to outlaw marketing of drug products to children. Children aren’t buying caffeine delivery beverages because they thought of it on their own. They buy them to look cool and be like their friends who buy them to look cool and be like the advertisement. Of course they’ll never admit this. Don’t believe me? Go to a school right now and ask the guzzlers why they’re guzzling. “Gotta wake up” “Gotta test” They believe they need the effects of the beverage. Do we really want our kids believing they need drugs to get through the day?
Death and serious illness/injury from caffeine is probably rare. But this lawsuit speaks to something more universal. There is no reason in the world to train children to use drugs to improve their performance. Their bodies and minds are still developing. Soon enough they will be fully grown and can make informed decisions.