05/01/2018 11:23 GMT | Updated 05/01/2018 11:23 GMT

'Not Recommended For Children’ Is Printed On Every Can Of Energy Drink. So Why Do We Allow Under 16s To Buy Them?

Jeremy​ ​Hunt,​ ​Theresa​ ​May -​ ​we​ ​need​ ​to​ ​put​ ​age​ ​restrictions​ ​on​ ​the​ ​sale​ ​of energy​ ​drinks​ ​to minors

PA Archive/PA Images

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.