WATER VALLEY – On a Friday night last month, 17 year-old Noah Smith had already put a full day in, attending classes as a senior at Water Valley High School and working the evening shift at Larson’s Piggly Wiggly.
He was a hard-working young man with a bright future ahead.
That future was cut short when he took caffeine pills to stay awake throughout the day – an amount that was ultimately a lethal dose in a death that has been ruled an accidental overdose.
His mom, Jennifer Westmoreland, now has a passion to make sure this does not happen to anybody else. She is pushing for a new law, Noah’s Law, to restrict minors from purchasing caffeine pills and energy drinks.
“As it stands right now, 12 year-old kids can walk in and buy these pills and energy drinks,” Westmore-land explained.
Only 10 days after Noah’s death, his family collected 200 signatures calling for legislative action. They delivered the signatures to their State Representative, Tommy Reynolds, who has pledged to take this effort to the State Capitol in January.
“In memory and in honor of Noah’s life, I will be filing a bill to require that retail establishments be prevented from selling enhanced caffeine pills to minors,” Reynolds reported.
Westmoreland is urging everyone across the state to contact their state senator or representative and ask for support for Noah’s Law.
“We do not want his death to be in vain, we don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Westmoreland told the Herald. And it turns out that caffeine overdose is more common that many people realize. Just three days before Noah’s death, his mom said a young female adult was admitted to the hospital in Oxford for caffeine overdose.
“She made it,” Westmoreland said.
Cause of Death
The push for Noah’s law was gaining momentum well before Monday’s official toxicology report came back. After investigating the death, Coroner Ronnie Stark had talked to numerous friends and family that were with Noah that day. Stark was comfortable identifying caffeine as the likely cause of death.
With Monday’s report, the official cause of death was deemed cardiac dysrhythmia due to excessive caffeine ingestion. The earlier autopsy also indicated Noah did not have a pre-existing heart condition. He was a healthy teenager.
Stark shares Westmoreland’s concern about the dangerous pills and energy drinks and is also a strong proponent of Noah’s Law. Stark said the caffeine pills are sold over-the-counter at many convenience stores and pharmacies.
“There are a lot of different brands, NoDoz, Stay Awake,” Stark explained.
“It could happen to anybody,” he explains. In addition to the county’s elected coroner, Stark also works as a paramedic, both at Yalobusha General Hospital and University of Mississippi Medical Center – Grenada. He has seen plenty of tragedies, but never one like this.
“It was tough on everybody, the EMTs, the doctors,” Stark said. “Doctors in the emergency room worked a long time trying to resuscitate him,” Stark said.
You Can Help
A fundraiser has been scheduled on Nov. 22 to raise money to help Noah’s family with expenses. The benefit is also to promote Noah’s law, according to Westmoreland, and is sponsored by Southern Wanderers RC Batesville Chapter.
The event will be held at 11171 Hwy. 315 (Johnny Holloway’s place). Registration is scheduled at 11 a.m. and an organized poker run will leave at 1 p.m. Poker hands cost $20 and include a barbecue plate. Dine-in or carry-out barbecue plates will be available for $10, and the fundraiser also includes an auction, 50/50 raffle and event T-shirts.
Smoked meat is also available and must be pre-ordered by Nov. 14. The selection includes Boston butts for $40, rib slabs for $30, bologna sticks for $25 and whole chickens for $20. To place your order contact Westmoreland at (662) 202-2682.
For more information about the benefit or to make a monetary or auction item donation, contact Spike at (662) 760-8018 or Chris at (662) 801-8942.