A couple of questions/answers on this site make it clear that many people feel that coffee is addictive, at least for some fraction of consumers.

My question, for those who believe coffee is addictive, is whether and how it should be regulated?

I am leaving the notion of "regulated" open. It could mean banning sales of coffee to minors, collecting a surtax to fund treatment, printing warnings on containers, and so on.

Given the emerging addiction-lore on the web I think it would be naive to assume that coffee would never be regulated. So I am interested in the extent to which people entertain or support regulatory ideas we currently associate with more potent drugs.

If one really believes that coffee is harmful and addictive, wouldn't one at least support a warning label on cups? Restricted sales to minors? The dangers listed in this well-received answer, if one accepts them, seem to commend at least mild warnings.

Edited 11/13 to link earlier question/answer.


4 Answers 4


Generally, governments find it necessary to regulate addictive substances due to quality of life or health issues that stem from abuse/addiction. While I will neither support or attack this kind of reasoning, when you think about children born addicted to heroin or methamphetamine, the property crimes generally associated with addiction, and the additional strain on our health care system, you can begin to at least understand it.

Coffee addiction is far less financially taxing (my dependence costs me roughly $10/week or less), less likely to disturb my health in any appreciable way, and socially acceptable at all levels of society.

The coffee industry generates plenty of revenue for government as is. Starbucks is paying their taxes just like every other corporation. Creating an additional branch of government employees to regulate or adding additional employees to an existing administration (FDA perhaps?) are all expenses to regulate something that isn't currently a problem. So it's an expense without any appreciable benefit.

TL;DR Since coffee is a low impact and highly supportable dependence, government has little or nothing to gain by regulating it's use.

  • 5
    "Starbucks is paying their taxes just like every other corporation." I guess that should be more like "Starbucks is evading taxes just like every other corporation." ;-)
    – anderas
    Nov 16, 2015 at 8:52

I would be opposed to any form of restrictive regulation. In truth I'm not in favour of it for most drugs anyway as I am all for personal freedoms. Except in the case of cigarettes, where public use of the product directly and negatively impacts on others.

However, I can see no harm to labeling warnings. Anything that promotes knowledge amongst consumers is a positive, in my view.

The argument that the societal ills of other illegal drugs (such as associated property crime and violence) seems to me inconsistent. The crime occurs with those drugs precisely because they are illegal and restricted, so the costs are able to inflate. Naturally it is more complicated than that and there is a difference of degree with addiction to consider. I merely point out the need to be cautious in making parallels with illegal drugs.


First of all, you have to realize that coffee is not the only way to get caffeine, the addictive substance in coffee. Coca-Cola, tea and chocolate also have caffeine. So, the question is not about regulating coffee, but products that roughly 75% of human race consumes.

Second, you have a little sip of cynicism and realize that regulations rarely ate about health. Marijuana was banned mostly to have a legal way to persecute coloured people in USA and to create a market reserve for synthetic fibres against hemp fibres. The UK even fought a war against China for opium. All the regulations we have today on tobacco and alcohol needed to be earned in rough disputes against rich and powerful industrial lobbies. So, even if coffee does some harm to health any restriction is very implausible.

But we don't have any strong evidence that coffee cause any harm to health. Caffeine is addictive, fact, but the addiction per si is not a problem. There are no social drawbacks, like alcoholism and strong drug addiction (lost of work productivity, domestic violence) and no big social health cost, like tobacco and alcohol.

So any regulation should be based only in the moral aspect that a addiction, even a without social consequences, should be avoided and our social resources should be used by the state to prevent this.

But anything can be addictive. MMORPGS, Netflix, coffee... Should we regulate all things based in this moral argument?



There is no social consequence of addiction of caffeine to justify the use of social resources by the government regulating it.


One thing is clear is that caffeine is addictive there are withdrawals when it is cut abruptly from the diet; however, in saying that coffee itself should not be regulated. Regulation on coffee would be like regulating tea, a drink that has been used for thousands of years will no ill effects. In the US coffee is the number one source of antioxidants therefore being a positive force for national health.

  • You mention addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Aren't those ill effects? Please cite a source regarding "antioxidants."
    – daniel
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:44
  • @daniel source = google. It's common knowledge Nov 13, 2015 at 1:24
  • @daniel you asked for a source citing proof of coffee having antioxidants, you didn't ask whether antioxidants are a legitimate health benefit. Nov 13, 2015 at 4:55
  • 1
    Fair enough, I should've probably assumed the context of your question Nov 13, 2015 at 5:14

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