Kids and Caffeine
At only 10 years old, the customer ordering the venti caramel latte with whipped cream was just tall enough to see over the counter. Her dad, getting his morning jolt, picked up the tab. Specialty coffee consumption has quadrupled in the past five years and, though no one keeps count of the youngest drinkers, the scene above is becoming increasingly commonplace. Unlike beer, there's no legal age for drinking coffee. Still, some say it's not for kids. "Caffeine affects children's sleep, which can hurt school performance," says Charles Pollak, M.D., Weill Cornell's Center for Sleep director and lead researcher of a study that found teens consuming caffeine slept less and awoke more during the night. Studies have shown caffeine causes nervousness and a rapid heartbeat in some adults, but similar studies in children haven't been done. That's where some medical experts say the real concern lies. "When you have such widespread exposure to a drug, like we do with caffeine, knowing its effects is important," says John Hughes, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont.