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One of the greatest insights from Bruce Yandle’s seminal paper Bootleggers and Baptists-The Education of a Regulatory Economist (1983) was that there was a demand for regulation. This observation is quite counter-intuitive, but corporations due benefit from regulation. As Dr. Yandle once mentioned in a lecture that they often have an anti-competitive impact on the market. Often the costs are of compliance tend to be much lower for larger companies but can be disastrous for small start-ups. Frequently eliminating competition without violating antitrust laws. Quickly dispelling the myth that large companies are vehemently opposed to regulation. Although the state action of taxation is a whole other story.

Whenever there is a public outcry for regulation, it is a corporation’s dream come true. Why? Because it requires little to no effort on their part.  If the measure curries favor with the public, there is no need to even enlist the help of lobbyists, you can let the average-Joe voter do all the dirty work for you. Demonstrating a common misconception about safety regulations. Often they are not truly essential to the public good. From a prima facie standpoint, they seem advantageous to the average citizen. May even seem essential for promoting public welfare. The downstream consequences are typically divorced from the implementation of the policy. The disconnect due to the temporal separation between cause and effect generates repercussions mirroring the effects of fiscal illusion. Instead of severing the connection between spending and taxation, time distances the connection between policy and results. Leading to the misconception that safety regulations are beneficial to the public.

The emergence of exigent circumstances amid a public health crisis is an opportune time for the general public to unwittingly act as covert lobbyists. In most cases, these “public health crises ” tend to be more so perceived than real. Sometimes, perception carries more weight than truth. One prime example of an emerging health disaster is the public health emergency of the risk of energy drinks. Particularly the consumption of energy drinks by children. For the record, kids really should not be consuming energy drinks. However, this is not the job of the government departments to enforce this safety measure. But rather is the duty of parents to be diligent regarding the actives of their children. Easier said than done. However, one only needs to look at age restrictions on tobacco, alcohol, recreation Marijuana, pornography, and vaping products to know such measures usually fail to meet the goal of limiting youth consumption.

One recent advocate for placing age restrictions on energy drinks made international news.  U.K. bar owner Lee Kamen spent years consuming a staggering twelve cans of energy drinks a day. After suffering a near-fatal heart attack he swore off these hyper-charged caffeinated beverages for life. Recently the former avid energy drinker imbiber caught his daughter in possession of one of these high octane beverages.  Subsequently poured it down the drain.  He then called the school to alert them that children were purchasing these deleterious drinks from a local shop. In several published articles Lee was quoted as expressing a need to place age restrictions on energy drinks. His intentions are pure and coming from the ethical need to protect children from the consequences of choices they are not mature enough to make.  Making him our energy drink Baptist.

Several parties benefit handsomely from Mr. Kamen’s advocacy for age restrictions on energy drinks. For one, the school does. Unfortunately, public schools have taken on too invasive of a role in child-rearing. Ranging from the inculcation of normative values to even being overly invested in the wellbeing of the students. One salient example of this is the advent of mandated reporter laws in the United States. The schools not having to do the leg work to discover this issue makes it easier for them. Instead of devoting resources to investigating this issue now all they have to do is alert other parents and enforce a prohibition of energy drinks on campus.  The next benefiting party would be local coffee shops (whether mom-and-pop or corporately owned). Despite Mr. Kamen’s good intentions, he cast too narrow of a net. Sugary iced mocha lattes may not pack the same punch as a can of Red bull, but can still have detrimental effects on a child’s health. Not including all caffeinated beverages under the umbrella of “dangerous beverages” leaves coffee shops free and clear to see their products to minors. Even if the sale of all caffeinated beverages to minors was prohibited, there would still be the issue of the sugar content in beverages. Leading us to infer that producers of sugary juices and soda (regardless of caffeine content) would still be legally permissible to children. Apparent the prospect of a sugar buzz eluded all the anti-energy drink advocates. High-sugar beverages are a welcomed substitute to offset the absence of caffeinated beverages. Kids already hooked on Monsters and Red bulls could just consume more sugar to replace the missing caffeine.

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