Opinion: Tim Hortons’ new cups are irresponsible

It’s official. The new Tim Hortons extra-large coffee cup is the same length as my head. I call it “The Giant.”

Not only is it as long as my face, the cup itself holds 24 ounces of hot drink. That’s the equivalent of four average cups of coffee.

Don’t believe me? How about this: “The Giant” is also equal to about two bottles of beer, four six-ounce glasses of wine or two standard cans of pop. That’s a lot of liquid, and, in the case of “The Giant,” caffeine.

At a time when obesity and excessive caffeine intake are becoming serious health concerns across the country, I’m beginning to wonder: Is it time for Tims — which many consider to be our national brand — to start taking responsibility for the nation’s health?

For many Canadians, a trip to good ol’ Timmies is an integral part of their regular routine: brush teeth, comb hair, stop at Tims for a double double. We have become a society addicted to caffeine. Many Canadians just can’t seem to make it through the day without at least one cup of joe. This is especially true for students.

While I myself am not one of these people (tea or hot cocoa is more my thing), I know many people who are. Some of my friends can drink a regular sized pot of coffee by themselves in a day, while others stop at Tim Hortons at least twice a day.

Walk into a typical university classroom and it’s hard to miss the numerous coffee cups intermixed with laptops and notebooks. The pattern is the same. Jot down a few notes, then take a sip.

This caffeine culture is obvious in the significant presence of coffee shops on campus. There are currently four Tim Hortons locations on campus alone, and I’ve heard talk of plans for a fifth to open in the River Building next fall. Two of them are in the same building — the Unicentre. On average, the lineups can be as long as 20 people deep.

With coffee holding such a prominent position in our day-to-day lives, Health Canada, along with various other health groups across the country, are beginning to voice their concern.

In a statement released last March, Health Canada set out to establish a recommended daily dose of caffeine. They say healthy Canadian adults should not consume more than 400 mg of caffeine a day. This is the equivalent to three, eight-ounce cups of coffee.

If you do the math, this means “The Giant,” by itself, contains the maximum recommended portion of caffeine as outlined by Health Canada.

Over-consumption of caffeine could become a serious health concern in the near future, if it isn’t one already. Medical reports have shown that those who drink more than the recommended daily intake are more likely to suffer from insomnia, headaches, migraines, nervousness, and irritability.

It’s a concern some Canadians seem to be taking to heart. Early this week, while waiting for a friend near the Tim Hortons in the athletics building, I decided a hot chocolate might be a nice treat. As I stood in line to place my order, a small (formerly medium) hot cocoa, the gentleman in front of me proceeded to order a triple-triple version of “The Giant.”

Nearby, a lady waiting for her own order was visibly taken aback. She turned to the gentleman and said, “I could never, in a million years, drink that much coffee.” In response, the gentleman said, “This is actually healthier than what I used to drink. Before, on average, I would drink at least 24 cups of coffee a day. Now, I only drink three extra-larges. I’m working my way down to one.”

This excessiveness needs to stop now. While most will argue the responsibility lies within the hands of the consumers, I’m not so sure they are entirely to blame. At some point, those who provide the product must also be held accountable. Promoting unhealthy options solely for the sake of profit is down right irresponsible.

Whatever happened to a business caring about their customers? In my opinion, encouraging a caffeine addiction is hardly thoughtful. Until both consumers and corporations start to make healthier choices, I’ll stick to a cup that looks like a cup. I’ll have a small hot chocolate please.

— Kelsey Johnson,
third-year journalism