I didn’t see many children during my brief career as a clerk in a supermarket fuel center. I suppose most of the youngsters who visited the gas station stayed in the car during the fueling process.
Once I did see a tween boy remove the nozzle from the pump and place it in the family car. He held the nozzle in place during the pumping process. Technically no one too young to legally drive was supposed to pump gas, but I didn’t run out of the kiosk to stop the boy. He wasn’t horsing around, and an adult woman was right there with him to help if anything went wrong. I figured the boy was probably as bright as the least savvy customers I’d encountered in that fuel center.
Occasionally adults sent children up to the kiosk to pay for fuel or buy snacks. Usually it was obvious the adult had not coached the child before sending it up to complete the transaction. Kids typically didn’t know what pump they were putting money on or how to lift the lid on the drawer through which I accepted money and returned change. Of course, plenty of adults didn’t know those things either, so I cut the kids some slack. At least children had the excuses of their tender age and inexperience.
During the last Friday I worked at the fuel center, I witnessed a child in a situation I could barely believe, especially since the adult guardians enabled the surprising behavior.
I’d returned from the supermarket where I had pulled merchandise to restock what we’d recently sold at the fuel center. I was standing outside the kiosk, waiting for my coworker to open the door for me. Outside the kiosk, standing on the other side of the bulletproof glass from my coworker were two adult women and two kids. Neither woman looked more than 35 years old. The older kid was 12 or 13 and the little kid was probably 6. The little kid was bouncing around begging for something. I was only partially paying attention to the interaction between the little kid and the woman. I was mostly thinking about getting off work in a few minutes and going home to cook dinner.
At some point, I realized the little kid was begging for a Bang® energy drink.
The Bang® energy drinks were in a tall (probably 3 feet high) round cooler decorated to look like a can of the beverage. The cooler was on wheels and was brought out of the kiosk and plugged in each morning. At night the cooler had to be unplugged and rolled back into the kiosk. We didn’t sell many of the drinks (Red Bull® and Monster® were probably the two most popular brands of energy drink we sold) and for some reason no variety of Bang® ever showed up on our replenishment list. I don’t know who kept the Bang® cooler stocked. No one told me anything about it, so I didn’t worry my pretty little head.
Occasionally I opened the Bang® cooler to return to the upright position any of the cans that had fallen on their sides during the daily taking out and bringing in. A can must have burst in the cooler at some time in the past because the walls and sides harbored sticky residue and an overpowering scent of (fake) cotton candy. I like sweets, but the intense aroma of artificial candy flavor nearly made me sick to my stomach.
According to the Bang® website,
BANG® is not your stereotypical high sugar, life-sucking soda masquerading as an energy drink! Power up with BANG’s potent brain & body-rocking fuel: Creatine, Caffeine, & BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids).
Under the “WARNINGS” section on the same website, I found this disclaimer:
Not recommended for use by children under 18 years of age.
Strange, the product’s own website says it’s not for children, but the list of available flavors include kid-appealing yummies like Birthday Cake Bash, Cotton Candy, Rainbow Unicorn, Sour Heads, and Root Beer. Sure, sure, adults can and do like those flavors too, but it seems a little strange to go with such sweetness while trying to appeal to a market that “consists principally of fitness enthusiasts” (according to Wikipedia.)
Also under the “WARNINGS” section of the Bang® website is the admission that
one serving [a 16 ounce can] of BANG provides 300mg of caffeine which is more than three cups of coffee.
For further comparison, 16 ounces of Red Bull has about 160mg of caffeine, a Starbucks Grande Caffe Americano contains 225mg of caffeine per 16 ounce cup, and 16 ounces of Mountain Dew contains about 73mg of caffeine. Coke Classic offers only a paltry 45mg of caffeine per 16 ounce serving. I think we can all admit that consumers of Bang® get an awfully big caffeine bang for their buck.
So why shouldn’t kids enjoy a Bang® energy drink and its 300mg of caffeine? According to the February 2015 article “Why Energy Drinks and Your Children Don’t Mix” on the Cleveland Clinic website,
Energy drinks won’t only cause your young children to bounce off the walls—they may cause an irregular heartbeat, too.
The article goes on to say that a study presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting showed that kids younger than 6 made up more than 40% of emergency calls related to energy drinks.
The effects the energy drinks had on the children included heart arrhythmia and seizures.
The AHA said this was
because many energy drinks contain pharmaceutical-grade caffeine in addition to caffeine from natural sources…These combined sources of caffeine may cause the heart to race and blood pressure to increase.
According to the article,
The American Academy of Pediatrics prefers children consume no caffeine at all.
While the possible health effects of high levels of caffeine on children are disturbing, that bouncing off the walls thing would be enough to keep me from giving an energy drink to a child. Most kids I’ve known have had plenty of energy without introducing 300mg (or even 100mg or 50mg) of caffeine into the equation. Apparently the woman the little kid was begging for a Bang® had no such concerns, because she agreed to buy him one!
I couldn’t even believe it! Does that seem like a good idea? I wanted to call out to her. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to me! I wanted to tell her. But who am I to tell someone what to feed her child? I am no one. I kept my mouth shut.
Once the woman agreed to buy the Bang® for the little kid, both women urged the older kid to get an energy drink too. The older kid picked a Monster with a more manageable 160mg of caffeine in the 16 ounce can.
My coworker rang up the two energy drinks and whatever else the group had decided to buy for their Friday night fun. Once he collected payment and gave them change, he opened the back door for me.
I wonder how that’s going to work out for her, he was muttering as he let me in. I knew he was talking about the woman who’d just provided a very large amount of a stimulant to a very small child.
I shrugged. Maybe this would be the night the woman learned that children and caffeine simply shouldn’t mix.
You can’t fix stupid!
No. You really can’t.