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December 17, 2017

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Excitement bubbles up at BYU as caffeinated soda now on sale

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Sammy Jo Hester/The Daily Herald / AP

Students get caffeinated soft drinks on campus at Brigham Young University on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. According to an online statement from Dean Wright, director of Dining Services, some locations on campus have started serving caffeinated beverages and it will be offered at sporting events.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 | 6:17 p.m.

PROVO, Utah — Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University ended a six-decade ban Thursday on the sale of caffeinated soft drinks on campus, surprising students by posting a picture of a can of Coca-Cola on Twitter and just two words: "It's happening."

The move sparked social media celebrations from current and former students, with many recalling how they had hauled their own 2-liter bottles of caffeinated sodas in their backpacks to keep awake for long study sessions.

The university never banned having caffeinated drinks on campus, but held firm to the ban on sales even when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2012 clarified that church health practices do not prevent members from drinking caffeinated soft drinks.

The ban has been in place since the mid-1950s. But officials with the school of 33,000 students in Provo, Utah, said Thursday that increasing demand prompted the change.

Students were abuzz about a change that meant they'll no longer have to make off-campus runs to load up on their favorite caffeinated sodas to jolt their sleep-deprived brains.

"It's about time," said Sara McLaws, a junior advertising and graphic design major from Park City, Utah. "BYU is a great school but it's behind in some ways. Just the small change of allowing caffeinated beverages — because it's not against our religion — it's high time."

As cafeteria workers stocked refrigerators in the student center food court with caffeinated Diet Coke, Coca-Cola and Mr. Pibb, students joked about it being the "best day ever.

"I absolutely love it. It's been a big game changer, even just day one," said Mckay Murphy, a junior statistics major from Springville, Utah. "I'm a really big fan of caffeine and just soda in general so it's nice to have it on campus with easy access."

Caffeinated soft drinks will also be sold at sporting events that draw tens of thousands of fans. Sales of highly caffeinated energy drinks are still banned.

The Utah-based Mormon religion directs its nearly 16 million worldwide members to avoid alcohol and hot beverages such as coffee and tea as part of an 1833 revelation from Mormon founder Joseph Smith.

Alumni applauded a change many said was long overdue.

"I drank a lot of caffeinated beverages while I was here but none of them was purchased on campus," said Christopher Jones, 34, a visiting BYU history professor and former student. "I never thought I would see the day so it's exciting."

Jones said he didn't know whether to believe it when he saw the announcement on his phone so he walked to a student center and saw the first bottles being stocked in vending machines and refrigerators. He was one of the first people to buy one.

"Did I just buy the first-ever caffeinated Coke Zero Sugar sold in #BYU's Wilkinson Student Center?" he tweeted. 'Yes, yes I did."

BYU alum Karl Jepsen, 48, was visiting his daughter who is now a student and basked in being able to drink "real Diet Coke" from the fountain machine.

"It's a big day because we can finally drink on campus what we're allowed to drink in real life," said Jepsen, a 1994 graduate. "It's been ridiculous that we couldn't have caffeinated soda on campus."

Amber Whiteley said she used to get nasty looks when she brought Mountain Dew to campus when she was a BYU student nearly a decade ago.

"You youths will never understand the struggle we went through," Whiteley wrote jokingly in a Facebook post.

In a telephone interview, Whiteley said the change could impact views among Mormons about caffeine. She said some older Mormons in her Salt Lake City congregation still believe all caffeine is prohibited.

"Maybe this will be one more way to get the word out that it's OK to have caffeine," said Whiteley, a mother who is pursuing her doctorate in counseling psychology.

AP writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this story.