HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - It's a drug that's cheap, easily accessible and easy to overdose on: caffeine. Experts say it's the most commonly used stimulant. Caffeine is a growing problem for children across the nation. South Carolina legislators are looking to be the first state to enact a bill as a step to end this problem. It could soon be illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy energy drinks in South Carolina.
Some South Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban the sale of a drink with a caffeine count of 80 milligrams per 9 ounces to anyone under 18. Many energy drinks are over that limit. This bill would also reprimand anyone selling an energy drink to someone under 18 with a $50 fine and enforcement similar to giving alcohol or cigarettes to underage kids.
But, how much caffeine is too much caffeine? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends adults consume no more than 400 milligrams per day; that's about four cups of coffee. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 12 to 18 shouldn't have more than 100 milligrams of caffeine per day; that's about two 12-ounce cans of soda.
From energy drinks, to coffee, and even candy, caffeine is becoming more prevalent with advertisements and kids are more likely to reach for the rush. What's even more interesting is some of these energy drinks are actually named "Death Wish" or "Killer Coffee,” essentially warning you before you make the purchase.
This bill comes after South Carolina 16-year old, David Cripe, collapsed last year after what officials called a caffeine-induced "cardiac event" from having so much caffeine in less than a two-hour span.
Right now, energy drinks have labels saying they're not recommended for consumption by children. But, the parents of David Cripe say more needs to be done to save children's lives.
Representative Carl Anderson is one of the bill's sponsors and says he believes this bill would benefit the community and hopefully set an example.
“To protect young people. I do not want to see another parent lose a child to the energy drink and the energy drink is high-powered and most young people have a lot of energy anyhow, so there’s a problem there. We lost a young man last year in Columbia, South Carolina. And there’s been several traits all over the U.S. where young people have been drinking energy drinks sometimes un-beknowing to their parents and doing athletes and all the heart gets pumped up and boom they are gone,” said Anderson.
Research from the American Association of Poison Control Center shows since 2012, at least 2,220 Americans under 19 became ill after having an energy drink.
Doctors Care's Regional Medical Director, Dr. Dennis Rhoades, said caffeine affects everyone differently and children are much more sensitive. He said people can actually get addicted and many experience withdrawal symptoms. The main concern for this substance is it's not regulated, so the FDA can only make recommendations.
“I would actually like to see in the schools just like we have a lot of educational programs on drugs. You know, let’s treat caffeine as a drug. Let’s inform the kids, let’s as adults take responsibility with our children and say no that’s bad you shouldn’t have that because it’s going to affect your body in an adverse way, no I don’t want you having a cola product at 8 o’clock at night because I want you to get a good night sleep before you go to school tomorrow. Same thing, it’s education if we can educate the public as to what’s good and what’s bad. Maybe we wouldn’t have to legislate everything and make a law,” said Dr. Rhoades.
Dr. Rhoades said over the last few years, the poison control encounters by telephone and emergency room visits have gone up from caffeine-related side effects. He said he hopes this bill will be a step in the right direction to prevent those numbers from rising.
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