RCPCH responds to Science and Tech Committee energy drinks report

The Science and Technology Committee's "Energy drinks and children" report, released today, has concluded that societal concerns could justify a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children, but found that the current quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to warrant a statutory ban. Professor Russell Viner, President of the RCPCH, responds.

The inquiry examined the effects of energy drinks, with a particular focus on the caffeine content, and was launched after research showed that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age group.

The aim of the inquiry was to understand whether the caffeine had a negative health and behavioural effect on young people, and whether the sale of these products to under-16s should be banned.

Although the Committee concluded that the existing quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a statutory ban, based on the range of qualitative evidence it:

  • welcomes any voluntary action taken by schools, retailers and local communities that could reduce energy drink consumption among children, including exclusion zones
  • acknowledges that the current voluntary ban implemented by a number of retailers amplifies the message that energy drinks are associated with negative health, behavioural and dietary effects, and
  • recognises that it might be legitimate for the Government to implement a statutory ban based on societal concerns and qualitative evidence, such as the experience of school teachers.

Responding to the Science and Technology Committee’s Energy Drinks and Children Report, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

Despite the committee acknowledging the impact energy drinks have on children’s energy levels, sleep, mental health and behaviour, it is disappointing not to see a recommendation today to ban the sale of these drinks to children under the age of 16.

We welcome the Government’s recent focus on child health through the Childhood Obesity Plan and its Prevention Vision and agree that in relation to energy drinks, more research is needed in order to evaluate their full impact to child health. However, we believe that the evidence is already compelling that energy drinks bring no benefits and only harms to children. In the meantime, I call on the Government to protect children by bringing in a minimum price for energy drinks as we know their cheap price tag is a key driver for their purchase and this would make other drinks more affordable and appealing.