ABC Discovers a New Gateway Drug for Kids: Caffeine

Story compares caffeine to Steroids, but leaves out how commonplace it is.     A new energy drink for kids, KickStart Spark was treated as a gateway drug and as bad as steroids on the September 26 ABC “World News Tonight.”.      ABC’s problem with the beverage was the amount of caffeine it contained – less than a cup of coffee. While the report mentioned that children already consume a lot of caffeine from soft drinks and chocolate, it exaggerated the danger and downplayed the benefits of KickStart Spark.      Reporter Dan Harris began the story by linking the drink to a major drug controversy. “There's been growing concern about the use of performance-enhancing substances by young people since baseball’s steroids scandals.”      ABC then interviewed Einstein Medical College dietician and nutritionist Keith Ayoob on the drink and heard his fears it will lead to more hazardous behavior. He explained, “It worries me that first it starts out with caffeine, and then it goes on to other things that could be even more dangerous.” The report didn’t explain what would be worse.     If caffeine were a gateway drug, then this nation would be in peril. The average American consumes 1.64 cups of coffee per day. Fifteen percent of the average beverage consumption per person was coffee and tea in 2004. Worldwide, more than 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed every year.      No one who liked the drink or anyone from the company, Advocare, was shown in the report. The company’s Web site was displayed on the screen, and quoted twice. The first time was a simple statement of what the product does – “provides focused and long-lasting energy that's just right for children.” The second time the company’s statement was quickly refuted.      Advocare stated that KickStart Spark “contains vitamins and minerals essential for children's balanced nutrition.” Harris quickly responded that “nutritionists say children can get those vitamins without the caffeine, just by eating healthy foods.” While a true statement, no mention if getting vitamins and minerals with caffeine is worse than no vitamins at all. According to Advocare's Web site, only 8% of children are getting all of the daily recommended nutrients.

Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Vice President for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center