Over the last 10 years, there’s been a massive rise in our kids drinking energy drinks – it’s truly alarming and almost unbelievable how popular they’ve become. They’re not just hidden in school bags, they’re sometimes even in lunchboxes and consumed instead of breakfast. They’re everywhere.
These dangerous drinks have become the norm – over two thirds of teens and just under a quarter of kids under the age of 10 drink some sort of energy drink, sometimes having one instead of a decent meal. Energy drink sales are going through the roof, rising a whopping 155% between 2006 and 2014.
When a product grows that fast into a prolific problem; when it’s hurting our kids, damaging our health and compromising our teachers’ ability to do their job, then we have to do something about it. These drinks are not safe for our kids, and now I believe it’s time to restrict their sale to all children under the age of 16.
What’s wrong with energy drinks?
Every single can or bottle of energy drink says ‘not recommended for children’ on the label. Take a look for yourself – it might be in the small print, often around the back of the can, but it’s there.
And it’s no wonder there’s a warning on every one. Energy drinks contain 12 teaspoons of sugar on average – over half the maximum daily intake for adults, let alone kids. The most famous brands contain 160mg of caffeine, which is way over the 99mg limit recommended for 10-year-olds. It doesn’t stop there - ingredients like taurine and guarana are often put in these drinks, and researchers don’t know yet if these are safe for kids in large quantities.
Many UK schools have already banned energy drinks in classrooms because of the disruption they cause. Kids can’t concentrate, behaviour and attainment drop and teachers struggle to run their lessons. The schools I’ve spoken to say that some teachers even have to come up with back-up lesson plans, depending on whether the kids are on a high or crashing. That’s crazy.
So what needs to happen?
The biggest mystery to me is that if the industry is telling us their products are not recommended for children, why are we letting our kids buy as much as they like, whenever and wherever they want?
We need government action. The energy drinks industry is booming like never before, and the number of these products in our kids’ environment is only going to increase unless something is done.
Things are starting to change, but there are still far too many loopholes that mean kids have unlimited access to these caffeinated, sugary drinks. For example, most energy drink brands have committed to stop targeting kids with adverts. Great! But at the same time, they can still put promo codes on their cans which give video game characters ‘extra energy’, because apparently that doesn’t appeal to under-16s. Really?!
It’s time for action
Parents and teachers can’t change this alone – kids have these drinks on the school bus or the walk home. I don’t blame them when they can cost as little as 25p - cheaper than water! A study of Scottish 13 to 15-year-olds found that 41% buy a sugary drink, including fizzy drinks and energy drinks, on their lunch break, even though they’re banned inside the school gates. How can parents and teachers stop that without a bit of help?
Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May - we need to put age restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s. There’s a lot at stake here for schools and for parents - not to mention the NHS who have to deal with the health issues linked to excessive sugar consumption and obesity.
Ultimately, this is about the health and happiness of our kids. Please join me and use the hashtag #NotForChildren to let the government know we care.