Coffee chain refuses service to kids under 16. Could this affect your local spot?

“ID, please.”

That’s the question that could face teens — and anyone who looks like a teen — at the London-based chain Costa Coffee. Costa, the second largest café chain the world, has said that each branch (there are more than 2,400 in the UK) now has the agency to deny caffeine to anyone under 16.

This coffee conflict became national news when a 12-year-old girl attempting to order an iced coffee was refused service at a Costa in Wales. People began to wonder why a coffee chain would care about the age of its customers.

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“We do not encourage the sale of caffeine to children under 16, and it is at store discretion to question a customer’s age if they have any concerns,” a Costa spokesperson said to the UK news publication The Mirror. “Our advertising is not directed at children and you must be 16 or above to own a Costa Club Card.”

Though the decision at Costa is an ocean away from any New Jersey coffee shops, the story has raised a few eyebrows over in the U. S. of A. Is child caffeine consumption being threatened here too?

Certainly not at Haylee’s Coffee House in Wayne. Owner Lu Jashari would never deny service to someone, though she said, “I think it’s curiously odd for people to buy coffee for their young kids. But kids have a lot of stress these days. It might be good to get them awake before they go to school.”

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According to Jashari, a lot of young people stop by her coffee shop to study, but usually the younger ones stick to blended coffees, sugary drinks with a only a bit of caffeine that taste more like milkshakes than anything. In general, Jashari says she thinks it’s up to parents to approve or veto coffee for their kids. She even once had a mom order a cup for her 11-year-old.

“She said it was his treat for doing well in school,” Jashari said.

Costa’s refusal to serve children caffeine is not entirely unfounded, though. Sherry Sakowitz-Sukkar, who is board certified in pediatric and obesity medicine and the director of Healthy Life Ways at Valley Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Wellness and Weight Management, says that caffeine can be dangerous to kids.

Sakowitz-Sukkar points to a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Report called “Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?” The study found that caffeine has been linked to “a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems.”

Caffeine, the report went on to say, can adversely affect heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, anxiety and more in children.

Whether or not it is a coffee shop’s place to refuse a preteen caffeine is a different matter, though.

Dave Hickey, owner of The Coffee Potter in Long Valley, certainly doesn’t think so.

“It would be a bit hypocritical for me, since I’ve been drinking it since I was about 6,” he said. “My grandmother got me started, and I have very fond memories of drinking coffee in our household.”

Hickey says middle schoolers are a big part of his business, but they’re not necessarily ordering coffee. They’re mostly stopping by for smoothies and hot chocolates.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said, “That would be the least of my worries for what kids under 16 can abuse. If you need to do an intervention with your child because they’re drinking too much coffee, that’s awesome. You’re doing a great job.”



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