Mike and I talk continuously on The Risk Control Show about unintended consequences. Human health is one such toll that has been paid in the name of unintended consequences. And that toll just keeps getting larger. Recently, South Korea implemented a ban on coffee in schools which extends to teaching staff. The rational coming from the Minister of the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is that too many students are using caffeine to keep up with strenuous demands of exams. South Korea wants its teaching staff to model good healthy habits. Bingo! That is a great goal, but the unintended consequences?
After a coffee ban
After banning energy drinks in South Korea, students turned to the black blood of creativity to get their caffeine.
If they can’t get it thru coffee, then teachers and students are likely to turn to the hard stuff. The small stuff. Those little caffeine pills (epinephrine) that were so popular in the 1990’s here in the States. Which, at least here in California, are now secured behind drug store security panels. Those pills and maybe even the harder stimulants (think cocaine and meth) may find themselves in high demand.
All or nothing
Whatever happened to limits and easing into solutions. We know that all or nothing rarely works, exacerbates the extremes and opens new pathways for workarounds. Which is exactly what we see in the coffee ban. It what we saw in the recent Supreme Court ruling on banning hand gun ads. Wouldn’t a reasonable solution be to limit the caffeine content of the coffee to a minimal amount or limit the number of cups per day or limit coffee to just the first two hours of school?
What we assume by a total ban is that humans are not smart enough to have free will over their own choices. We also assume that everyone will make the wrong choice or a bad choice for themselves. And the idea that all people are weak and bad just isn’t true. That line of thinking creates protection, bubble wrapping individuals and not letting them take responsibility for their actions. It’s the link to the cause of snowflakes and mass shootings.
Mike and I talk about unintended consequences on The Risk Control Show all the time. And we are seeing this come up over-and-over again in these types of knee-jerk reactions.
The bigger problem of the coffee ban
Trust me when I say that the bigger problem will be the dependence on harder substances that are undetectable to the human eye – pills and cocaine. Myanmar is already producing millions of little pink meth pills. Getting kids hooked on the illegal substance is highly more damaging to the youth’s health than a bit of coffee.
As a risk manager you should carefully consider full bans and evaluate your policies properly. Policies should guide the middle 80% and leave room on the both ends to deal with the cases as a one-off issue. Full bans are good for illegal business and you don’t want to be the cause of that.