Are Teens Too Young To Drink Coffee?

As I've mentioned, I'm having a hard enough time right now with my usually normally tempered children now hopped up on sugar after last week's Halloween take. The thought of adding caffeine to that mix for my 12-year-olds is, quite frankly, terrifying, likely leading to late-night tears (mine) and furious tantrumming (theirs, possibly also mine).

So I can see where U.K. chain Costa Coffee is coming from. The website reports that Costa "has officially banned under 16s from buying caffeinated drinks." Following the U.K. attempt to ban children from buying sports drinks, "the coffee chain has given staff the discretion to decide whether or not to serve certain drinks to children under the age of 16." This has caused some employees to start carding. For coffee. At least one parent has already bristled under the strict new plan, when his 12-year-old daughter was not allowed an iced coffee.

The story doesn't mention whether decaffeinated drinks are under the same scrutiny, but I'm guessing no. And decaf seems like a fine compromise for, say, the 12-year-old who wants an iced coffee. After all, decaf has a little caffeine in it also, right? (At least, that's what I told myself when I was pregnant.) Shouldn't that be sufficient for under 16-year-olds before they're hit with stress-filled college applications and the like?

I just see no good reason for a young teen to get hopped up on coffee at such a tender age. Old people like me, we need the blessed boost that caffeine brings. Young people are going to have enough unfamiliar substances to navigate as they grow up—why start early? Once again, though, I turn to my fellow Takeout community parents, who are always fonts of information: What do you guys think? Is this ban reasonable or totally outlandish?