MPs have said the government could ban the sale of energy drinks to young people because of teacher concerns about their effect on children’s behaviour.
A report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee says that although there is not enough scientific evidence to justify a statutory ban, the experiences of school teachers could provide a legitimate basis for a new law.
The report was published following an inquiry into whether the caffeine in energy drinks had a negative effect on young people’s health and behaviour; it also explored whether their sale to under-16s should be banned.
Committee chairman Norman Lamb said: “Throughout this inquiry, the committee has heard a range of concerns warning of the impact energy drinks can have on the behaviour of young people. This varied from a lack of concentration in the classroom and hyperactivity to the effects on physical health.”
The committee concludes that the “existing quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a statutory ban on the sale of energy drinks to children”.
However, the report adds 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”.
The findings have been welcomed by the NASUWT teaching union.
General secretary Chris Keates said: “The NASUWT is pleased that the committee took serious note of the evidence that we presented to it on the very real concerns that many teachers have about the impact that excessive consumption of energy drinks is having on pupil behaviour.
“The union welcomes the acknowledgement from the committee that the government’s plan to introduce a ban on the sale of these drinks to children and young people, a move supported by the NASUWT, is legitimate.
“Teachers and school leaders continue to see first-hand the contribution energy drinks can make to poor pupil behaviour and pupils’ ability to concentrate in class, and the NASUWT has been pleased to lead on their behalf this increasingly successful campaign to raise awareness of the impact of these drinks.”
The MPs' report also welcomes any voluntary action taken by schools, retailers and local communities that could reduce energy-drink consumption among children, including exclusion zones.
It further said that the current voluntary ban implemented by some retailers strengthens the message “that energy drinks are associated with negative health, behavioural and dietary effects”.
A three-month consultation by the government into a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s finished last month.
It also sought people’s views on:
- Which products should be included in any restrictions.
- What age limit should be applied to a ban.
- Whether sales of energy drinks from vending machines should be restricted.
- Whether any other changes would be more appropriate than a ban on sales to children, or which could be applied as well as a ban.