Vice Squad
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Marketing Caffeine to Young Athletes

Sunday's New York Times included this article about AdvoCare International's product Spark, an energy drink aimed at kids. According to the article, Spark "contains several stimulants and is sold in two formulations: one for children 4 to 11 years old that includes roughly the amount of caffeine found in a cup and a half of coffee, and one containing twice that amount for teenagers and adults." The marketing seems to hope to appeal to young athletes, in particular, though the Times story indicates that AdvoCare International executives claim that Spark is directed towards healthy living, not just sports. The Times article also notes many voices of concern at the marketing of high-caffeine products towards kids. If the popularity of products such as Spark increases, I expect that litigation or legislation eventually will impose limits on marketing, if not on caffeine content directly. Will schools suspend students who bring substances such as Spark to class?

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Sunday, September 11, 2005
Dirndl Drama

Workplace smoking bans that apply to restaurants and bars have been adopted in many locales (including Italy, Ireland, and NYC), ostensibly to protect the health of employees. One way that a bar or restaurant could continue to cater to its smoking customers is to set up an outdoor dining area, where smoking is permitted. But careful -- outdoor workers are exposed to a different hazard: sunlight. And so the European Union is thinking of requiring (via the Optical Radiation Directive) outdoor employees to cover up. Such a requirement, however, might necessitate that barmaids in Bavaria abandon their traditional costume, the dirndl. What will happen to the label of St. Pauli Girl? Come to think of it, judging from the 2005 St. Pauli Girl poster, they already abandoned the dirndl -- but they aren't out of the woods with respect to the Optical Radiation Directive.

I ran across the Optical Radiation Directive and its implications for Bavarian barmaids on a blog connected with

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Thursday, September 01, 2005
Technological Change and the Drug War

The September/October edition of Foreign Policy -- its 35th anniversary issue --features a series of essays speculating on current institutions that will not be around 35 years from now. Examples include "The King of England" and "The Chinese Communist Party," and, more to the Vice Squad purpose, "The War on Drugs." The author, Peter Schwartz, suggests that technological innovation in drugmaking will lead to local and customized production of recreational drugs. There will be specific drugs to complement certain activities, such as golf or gardening, and they will be safe. Schwartz does not foretell any wholesale legalization, however; rather, he seems to think that a de jure drug war will remain, but that de facto it won't amount to much:
We may even wistfully look back at a time when there were smugglers to be chased and coca fields to be burned. The bad guys were brutes, largely foreign or inner-city hoodlums. The new drug sellers will be chemists, most likely caught on tax-evasion charges. Users, too, will be harder to hate. They’ll look a lot like you and me.
I find Schwartz's technological take to be intriguing but not persuasive. He notes that crystal meth is a prototype of the drugs he envisions, in that it is produced locally and inexpensively -- but the current meth situation shows no signs of leading to a quiet surrender in the war on drugs. Rather the opposite, actually. My belief and hope is that the high costs, ineffectiveness, and injustice of our current war on drugs will undermine the political support for punitive drug policies, even in the absence of technological changes in drug manufacturing.

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