Should a 14-year-old have known better? Or as the plaintiff in the upcoming trial will surely ask it, did this 14-year-old ever have a real chance at knowing better, given the company’s marketing and promotion efforts, and lack of clear warning?
I don’t envy the jury being asked to answer the question, but there’s a reality we and they all have to keep in mind: Sometimes, 14-year-olds make bad decisions no matter how much they know to the contrary. For instance …
- In 2011, 27% of this nation’s 10th-graders reported they had consumed alcohol.
- Every day in the United States, 6,000 people under 18 years of age start smoking.
- 20% of eighth-graders have reported they’ve tried marijuana.
- By age 15, 13% of this nation’s youth have participated in some sort of sexual activity.
- By age 19, 70% of this nation’s youth have had sexual intercourse.
- A stunning 46% of driving-age teens have admitted to texting while driving.
You get the idea. There’s no way in the world any teenager in this day and age could have not been exposed to the dangers of sex, smoking, drugs, drinking and driving, yet those bad decisions are made over and over. Why? Because young people feel bulletproof, even when they’ve been told something is dangerous.
An energy drink — a drink that clearly is designed to do something to the body it can’t or won’t do on its own — is no exception to that mentality.
Young people just tend to tempt fate. That’s nothing new, nor surprising.
Could things have turned out different if Monster Beverage didn’t exist? Maybe. Or maybe the young lady would have consumed “pep” pills. Or maybe she would have consumed several caffe lattes or sodas and ingested the same amount of caffeine she took in by drinking Monster. I don’t know. But that’s just it — nobody knows. However, if she was willing to make one bad decision, doesn’t it stand to reason she could make another?
For better or worse, the “freedom” that makes this country great inherently includes the freedom to do things we shouldn’t do. Granted, we should think protectively of our children, who don’t always think straight. But if the average 14-year-old is responsible enough to own a smartphone and a personal computer (and in some cases, own checkbooks or have access to credit cards), we have to be able to trust them enough to recognize that a deliberately body-altering drink might be risky, no matter how small the warning is on the can.
I think the jury’s going to feel the same, making this little more than a bump in the road for Monster.
* Author’s footnote: For the record, I’ve lost five close family members to cancer (one grandparent, three uncles, one aunt). All five smoked, and four of them died directly from smoking-related cancers. The fifth one died from pancreatic cancer that certainly wasn’t helped by lifelong smoking. None of those losses can compare with the loss of a 14-year-old daughter, so I compassionately sympathize with the young girl’s family. Yet, the reality is that all five of my family members ultimately died from choices they made, even though they knew they were dangerous choices. I can’t blame the tobacco company any more than I can blame the car companies that make vehicles driven by drunk drivers, nor any more than I can blame the brewers that make the booze that destroys people’s livers, nor any more than I can blame gun-makers for hunting accidents. Anything can be dangerous when used inappropriately; even teenagers understand that.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.