03.10.2022

Welsh bid to ban under-16s from buying tea and coffee as part of energy drinks clampdown

Children could be banned from buying tea and coffee to children in Wales as part of a clampdown on caffeinated drinks.

The proposal put forward by the devolved Labour government would prohibit their sale to youngsters under the age of 16. It has been put out for consultation as part of a wider plan to end sales of energy drinks to children.

The consultation asks whether the ban ‘should be widened to consider other drinks typically high in caffeine, such as tea and coffee’.

The Welsh government is looking to ban energy drinks as part of its healthy eating and anti-obesity strategy.

However, it admits there are difficulties demonstrating links between such products and poor health outcomes.

Children could be banned from buying tea and coffee to children in Wales (stock image)

The UK government consulted on an energy drinks sales ban for under-16s in England in 2018 and announced it would enact measures the year after, but they have yet to be implemented.

That consultation made it clear that tea and coffee would remain exempt.

The Welsh consultation states ‘energy drinks contain, on average, similar levels of caffeine to a double shot of espresso’.

Under current rules all drinks except tea and coffee which contain more than 150mg of caffeine must carry a warning.

More than one in five UK retailers have imposed voluntary restrictions on energy drinks for under-16s.

Wales’ deputy minister for mental health, Lynne Neagle, said the consultation sought ideas on how to ‘support the nation to be healthier’.

Some energy drinks have 21 teaspoons of sugar, as many calories as a Mars bar and the same amount of caffeine as three cups of coffee.

Previous research suggests children who drink sugary energy drinks regularly are more likely to suffer headaches and sleep and mood problems.

But there have not been any similar links made between coffee or tea consumption among youngsters.

On the contrary, research suggests that coffee – without sugar – actually has a wide range of health benefits.

Between 3 and 32 per cent of children consume energy drinks on at least one day per week in the UK, figures suggest.

Last year, medics writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) warned of the dangers of energy drinks after a student who drank too many developed heart failure.

The 21-year-old university student spent 58 days in hospital after consuming four 500ml energy drinks every day for two years.

He was admitted to intensive care and was so ill that doctors were considering whether he needed an organ transplant.

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