In general I do think our society is over-policed. There are so many rules and regulations we are expected to follow that it really can take away from using your own common sense and taking responsibility. But what about when minors are involved and their choices affects their health?
What I am talking about is caffeine. As I waited at the traffic lights in front of a school this morning, 4 young boys aged 12-14 ran across the road carrying large 500ml bottles of Coke. At 8.30am. Already half drunk.
Finding the exact amount of caffeine in that 500ml bottle of coke was not easy. I Googled images of ingredients lists and nutritional profiles but only came up with it as an ingredient. After a little more research, I found an article estimating that each 100ml of coke contained 9.7mg of caffeine. I also had a look at the sugar content and found each 100ml contained just over 10mg of carbohydrate energy from sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
This means if these boys finish off their 500ml Cokes before the bell rings at 9am they will have each consumed the equivalent of a cup of coffee, with 10 teaspoons of sugar. That is not including whatever they may have had for breakfast, or all the artificial colours and flavours Coke contains. This is in no way conducive to calm, relaxed, attentive learning in school.
These boys could easily be tarred with the ‘bad behaviour’ or ‘learning difficulties’ brush, when honestly, they are just jacked up on caffeine and sugar. And who is responsible?
Is it the parents who may not have control over what their kids buy on the way to school?
Is it the store owners who are selling these items legally to children?
Is it the companies that do not make their products ‘adults only’?
Not too long ago I was working at my local health food store and I overheard one of our junior staff members placing her order for a double shot latte. She was 16. Horrified, I joked did she know she had to be 18 years or older to drink caffeine and for a moment she believed me, concerned she was doing something illegal. She said, “They never say anything at the coffee shop!” And she is right. What she is consuming is legal, but it is far from healthy.
Chatting to one of the local barristers, she told me an even more shocking story, of how management makes them serve little kids, if kids come to buy a coffee. She doesn’t like doing it and admitted to using decaf instead of real coffee in their orders. But she was the only one at her store who seemed to care. She even told me of one father who purchased a double shot long black for himself and a short mocha for his 5 year old daughter. The barrister said, “Don’t you mean a hot chocolate? The mocha has coffee in it.” And he replied, “No, I meant the mocha, she likes the coffee.”
I can’t tell you how distressed that story made me feel. Which brings me to my desire to create more rules and regulations around beverage consumption. I believe caffeine should be an 18+ substance, just like alcohol and cigarettes. I think every young person who goes in to buy a coffee, Coke or energy drink should have to show ID. I think you should have to be an adult before deciding to poison your body.
Isn’t that why alcohol is 18+? Because the affects of alcohol have a physical effect on the human body, can be addictive and as a toxic substance it has been deemed that children should not consume it. These rules are in place to protect a child’s health are they not? So what is the difference with caffeine? Caffeine has a physical effect on the human body, it is addictive, and it is a toxic substance that is not good for a child’s health.
So for once, I am bidding for more rules. Make the sale of caffeine to children illegal. For our future health.