Ban sale of energy drinks to under 16's says UK’s top children’s doctor

Professor Russell Viner has today urged the Government to ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 16, and calls for "regulation and education" to protect against the hidden dangers to health from energy drinks.

Energy drinks are consumed by more than two-thirds of 10 to 17-year-olds and they often contain a number of ingredients including amino acids, sweeteners, sugars and caffeine – none of which are necessary or beneficial to their diet. This has sparked concerns across the health and education sector about their safety, leading to calls from Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), for the Government to regulate and educate.

As part of the RCPCH response to the Government’s consultation on energy drinks, the College recommends:

  • a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16
  • school-based Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) programmes delivered by experts covering healthy diets
  • a minimum price across all energy drinks
  • clear sponsorship rules for events and sport athletes
  • clear labelling of caffeinated products with warnings if caffeine content is particularly high
  • banning the sale of energy drinks from vending machines.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH said:

To inform our response to this consultation we spoke to around 200 children and young people with many saying they drank energy drinks because they wake them up, give them energy and are cheap. In fact, energy drinks have the opposite effect with their ingredients making them lethargic, agitated and anxious. The limited research on the impact caffeine has on the young body and mind is also a great concern.

Two-thirds of the children and young people we spoke to felt that energy drinks should be banned for under 16’s, with the remaining one-third opting for under 18’s, so there is a clear consensus, even from young people, that this ban should be enforced. Many supermarkets have taken their responsibility towards their customers health seriously by adopting policies that prevent under 16’s buying energy drinks and so a legislative ban which supports all stores, including those smaller outlets which young people have told us they tend to buy from, to do this, is the next logical step.

Children get energy from a good diet, refreshing sleep, exercise, and positive interactions with others so education programmes promoting this will be key to good future health.

Professor Viner continues:

Children and young people need to learn from an early age about their mental and physical health, importance of exercise and the impact food and drink they consume has on their body. We see evidence-based and expert led PSHE education delivered across all primary, secondary and free schools, being a crucial component to the curriculum. With this important addition, children and young people will be in a position, just as they are in relation to sexual health for example, to make an informed decision on issues that can have a huge impact on the rest of their life.