Caffeine, Tanning Bed News Sparks Outcry

Two FDA decisions affecting parents and their children and teens are generating a lot of public outcry. One involves doing further investigation of the health effects of caffeine, especially in food products marketed to youth, and the other is a proposal that tanning beds should carry a skin cancer warning aimed at those under 18.

To those who say this is government over-reaching, I say – get over it.

Caffeine in More than Just Coffee

A deeper look at how caffeine might affect children sounds reasonable. The FDA points out that a new trend in marketing “old foods for new” is adding caffeine.  Already, caffeine is added to soft drinks, energy drinks, candy bars and ice cream. One of the latest is caffeinated gum. Many brands are now available under such names as “Energy Alert,” Military Alert,” or “Jolt.” Just one piece, an ad claims, contains as much caffeine as half a cup of coffee.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Deaths of young people from an overdose of caffeine have been reported. The FDA left caffeine pretty much alone when it was a matter of mostly adults drinking several cups of coffee a day. The coffee and food industries, by deciding to add a stimulant to a growing number of products – especially those attractive to young people – have shifted the debate. Read more of what the FDA has to say about caffeine and the human body. What I say to the FDA is hurry up before I have grandchildren I have to worry about.

Tanning Beds Carry Cancer Risk

Now we come to tanning beds.  The FDA is proposing that tanning beds and tanning lamps be required to carry a warning targeted to those under 18 that exposure to ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of skin cancer. It is accepting public comment on the proposal.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there is a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, in those who have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning, and the risk increases with each use. The proposed order does not prohibit the use of sunlamp products by those under the age of 18, but it provides a warning on the consequences.

I don’t think you can warn young people enough about the dangers of sun exposure. Parental nagging eventually stops working.  A warning on a tanning bed or sunlamp might help the facts sink in.

To those who say the government shouldn’t meddle in consumer choices, I say we can’t do enough to keep our children and teens safe from those who only see dollar signs when they look at them.

You can read more about FDA warnings for caffeine and tanning products in our blogs “Parent Warning: FDA Warns Against New Caffeine Product” and “Safety of Spray Tanning Under Fire.”


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