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Activists warn of dangers from caffeine addiction
date: 27-February-2006
source : SPERO NEWS
editorial comment editorial comment
It's about time that this devilish substance be banned once and for all, and that all coffee drinkers be sent to Guantanamo Bay......

Is the War on Drugs taking aim at that morning cup of java? As crazy as it might sound, some activists would hope so - and they have enlisted the help of various mayors to support their cause.

But first, to be more precise, critics aren't specifically after coffee, but rather after caffeine - a "drug" that is included in such products as energy and soft drinks, and some chocolates.

And they might be up against history. It is said that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was once boiling some drinking water when leaves from a small bush fell into his pot - to create the first kettle of tea. The year was 2737. B.C. The history of a cup of java, however, is more recent - and said to date back to Africa in 575 AD. By the Eleventh Century coffee was served by Arabians, and hot chocolate was served by the Aztecs to the Spanish conquistadores.

"We hope to raise awareness to the risks of this ubiquitous drug, says Marina Kushner, founder of the Caffeine Awareness Alliance - a New York City nonprofit group that pushes a soybean-based coffee substitute - which sponsors the March 2006 as National Caffeine Awareness Month.

"Most caffeine addicts have no idea that they are addicts. But, with as little as 200 mg of caffeine, you can experience typical addictive symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, tension, insomnia, excitement, and gastrointestinal disturbance," says Kushner.

"If you boost that level to more than 1 gram (1000 mg), you can get irregular heartbeats, panic and anxiety disorders, muscle twitching, incoherent speech, excessive urination, flushed skin, and depression. And, believe it or not, when you take over 5 grams of caffeine, the results can be fatal," says Kushner.

"This is one addiction you want to kick quickly! adds Kushner, who is selling a book, "The Truth About Caffeine- How Companies that Promote it Deceive Us and What We Can do About it."

And Kushner has supporters.

Such as Dennis R. Yates, the mayor of Chino, California who recently signed the proclamation declaring March 2006 as National Caffeine Awareness Month. This will be the second year for Chino in hosting the event. The proclamation states that "physical and mental health care are immeasurably important to the overall well-being of the citizen.

According to Yates, "caffeine consumption can pose a significant hazard to health and longevity," as consumption of the dangerous drug is "linked to heart disease, pancreas and bladder cancer, hypoglycemia, and central nervous system disorders."

In a report on caffeine, The University of Kansas says that "caffeine narrows blood vessels in the brain and stimulates the cerebral cortex, the brain's outer sheath. This helps you think more rapidly and clearly. Elsewhere in the body, blood vessels expand. Coordination improves."

"Caffeine is used medically as a mild stimulant or headache-killer. Caffeine citrate helps in treating sleeping problems in newborns," says the University of Kansas report, adding that "In healthy people, moderate amounts of caffeine have little effect on blood pressure or heart rate. Bigger doses can cause agitation and ringing in the ears, muscle tremors and irregular heartbeat. If you quit coffee cold, you may experience headache, nervousness, anxiety dizziness and irritability."

Yates says he signed the proclamation because he is concerned for the health of the Chino's citizens.

Chino isn't the only town in California leading the fight against what they call an "addictive drug."

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders signed a proclamation declaring National Caffeine Awareness Month in his city as well.

The cities of Brentwood, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles have also issued similar proclamations and acknowledgements.

The movement also has supporters outside of California.

Two Washington state mayors have also recently signed the proclamation: Robert Welch of Richland, and Rosemarie Ives of Redmond.

According to a Feb 9. article in the Plain Dealer, Shaker Heights mayor Judith Rawson has also signed the proclamation, and noted that mayors in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C., "are among the cities that have issued proclamations about the health risks of caffeine. Nebraska, New Jersey and Wisconsin also issued proclamations."

This article has been updated to include further information regarding the inclusion of mayors from outside of California, as well as the tweaking of the headline to reflect the new information.

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