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By VERONICA GORLEY



Published: Fri, January 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By VERONICA GORLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

ace it. They're addicted.

Caffeine is as big a part of teen-age life as partying or getting a driver's license.

The adage, "Coffee will stunt your growth," doesn't seem to faze teen-agers; coffee shops are packed with Java juveniles on weekends.

Easy addiction: Young caffeine junkies see caffeine-loaded sodas advertised in fast-paced, flashy television commercials designed to appeal to younger generations. Hook 'em young, and they're customers for life.

In fact, caffeine is easy to get in school. High schools often sell it: candy bars for fund-raisers, pop from vending machines, Little Debbies in the lunch line or school store.

Kids can even buy Caffeine clothing -- a brand-name line sold at stores like DJZ or Hot Topic in Eastwood Mall.

It's caffeine overload.

"It makes me have a rush," Mari Warner, 18, said of coffee. "I get headaches if I don't drink it anymore."

With an iced espresso from Gloria Jean's in her hand, the Fowler resident said she likes drinking espresso and hanging out at coffee shops.

Warner said the coffee craze among young people is for attention.

"Sometimes it's not just that they like the taste, but it's the cool thing to do," Warner said. "They do it for the look."

Warner said the most action-packed pop commercials advertise the beverages with high caffeine content -- with hooking kids in mind.

"Kids are more gullible," Warner said. "They want to be like that."

Rachael Stamp-Mizicko, 18, of Fowler said she enjoys drinking cappuccino, but her caffeinated beverage of choice is Mountain Dew.

"It's the worst for you," Stamp-Mizicko admitted.

Between sips of a French vanilla cappuccino, Stamp-Mizicko said she drinks pop with her meals and enjoys raspberry iced tea or Cali hot tea. She said caffeine is a major part of young adults' diets.

"From the ages of 16 to 25, it's huge," Stamp-Mizicko said.

Large amounts consumed: Southington residents Mike Stack, 16 and brother Chris, 15, agree that pop is a staple of their diets. Mike claims he consumes seven caffeinated drinks a day. A sometime-skater, Mike said his skater friends drink a lot of caffeine.

"It's addicting," Mike said.

Megan Cunning, 15, of Campell said she needs caffeine.

"Especially for school," Cunning said. "It keeps me awake."

Cunning is a fan of coffee and caffeinated soda. She likes going to coffee shops on weekend nights with a friend just to talk.

Emily McAnallen, 16, of Pulaski said she drinks coffee in the morning with her mother, and she prefers dark pop to caffeine-free light-colored pop.

Favorite caffeine: "I love Pepsi," McAnallen said. "I think I'm a big caffeine drinker."

Addicted?

"I've never really tried to stop," McAnallen said honestly.

Lisa DiDesiderio, 17, of New Wilmington said she likes coffee but prefers to drink a cup of tea nearly every day. Her favorite soda is Mountain Dew Code Red.

The girls agreed in their distaste for decaf.

"Decaffeinated coffee is bitter," DiDesiderio said.

On the other hand, Eric Devine, 19, said he likes decaffeinated beverages.

"It tastes the same to me," the Boardman resident said.

Devine, who said his favorite soda is Mountain Dew, admits he sometimes drinks five or six glasses of tea or pop when he goes out to eat.

"A lot of them just drink it for the caffeine," Devine said. "I just drink it for the taste."




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