energy drink

Government is proposing a ban on the sale of highly caffeinated pop to children, to clamp down on health problems such as hyperactivity, difficulty sleeping, stomach aches and headaches

So, it turns out whopping amounts of caffeine are potentially harmful to kids. Who knew?!

Well, the World Health Organization, for one. It warned in 2014 that ‘increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people’.

A mere four years later, the UK government is proposing a ban on the sale of highly caffeinated pop to children (either under 16 or under 18), in a move to clamp down on health problems such as hyperactivity, difficulty sleeping, stomach aches and headaches.

It would encompass ‘drinks that contain more than 150mg of caffeine per litre’ – which is a low bar given the likes of Red Bull are over twice that strong at 320mg per litre. That’s the equivalent of three cans of full-sugar Coke.

While a cynic might suggest the government plan’s main purpose is to distract from Brexit and/or the PM’s dancing, it’s creditable nevertheless given how commonplace energy drinks are in kids’ diets.

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Alarmingly, the UK’s teenagers “already consume 50% more of these drinks than European counterparts” according to public health minister Steve Brine. And it’s not just health that’s at risk, he warns. Education is an issue, too. “Teachers have made worrying links between energy drinks and poor behaviour in the classroom.”

It’s also commendable that the Department of Health wants the sanction to apply to all retailers, and not just the supermarkets, which earlier this year instigated entirely voluntary bans on energy drink sales to under-16s. After all, the mults’ admirable intentions count for little if teens can still get their energy kicks from indies and fascias across the land.

A blanket, government-enforced restriction will surely be more effective, even if this could make energy drinks potentially even more appealing to some cheeky teens.

But what would stop caffeine-crazed kids switching to other types of buzz-giving drinks? Technically, nothing. Practically… well, how many have the stomach for three cans of Coke every time they need a boost? And how many have a liking for cold-brew coffee (the sort of premium drink neither created nor marketed with under-18s in mind)? Do you see many 15-year-olds walking to school clutching an Americano from Costa? No, me neither.

So, it’s very likely the government’s ambition will become a reality. And that’s good – as long as the final version is true to its original vision and it is clear to suppliers, retailers and shoppers exactly which drinks are included in the ban and which aren’t. There’d be no benefit to anyone were an overly cautious c-store owner to refuse to sell, say, a can of Pepsi or a bottle of Lucozade to a youngster just because it included ‘Energy’ on the label.