Schoolchildren in England will be banned from buying energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster and Relentless under Government plans.
Tough new laws could see the sale of drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre banned to under-18s, according to plans put out for consultation.
The move comes amid concerns that the high-caffeine, sugar-loaded drinks are harming children’s health, with excessive consumption linked to a host of health and behaviour problems in children, from headaches to hyperactivity.
Youngsters in the UK reportedly consume more of the drinks than other children in Europe.
Major retailers already refuse to sell to under-16s but the Government plans to introduce a blanket ban under plans put out for consultation, with on either under-18s or under-16s being considered.
According to No 10, more than two-thirds of 10-17 year-olds and a quarter of six to nine year olds consume energy drinks.
While many major retailers do not sell to under-16s, just 21% of the UK grocery market, including corner shops, are signed up to voluntary restrictions, No 10 said.
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A Government source was adamant the ban would come into force, saying: “It’s a question of how, not whether, we do it.”
Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “We all have a responsibility to protect children from products that are damaging to their health and education, and we know that drinks packed to the brim with caffeine, and often sugar, are becoming a common fixture of their diet.”
He added: “Our children already consume 50% more of these drinks than our European counterparts, and teachers have made worrying links between energy drinks and poor behaviour in the classroom.”
Mr Brine insisted there was “widespread support” for the ban, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that the Government is responsible for the nation’s health – as are people – it is a mix.”
Ministers first announced their intention to introduce legislation to end the sale of energy drinks to children in the Government’s childhood obesity plan in June.
Existing industry labelling guidelines require any soft drink with more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to carry a high-caffeine content warning and state it is not recommended for children.
Sales of energy drinks have boomed in the UK, jumping by around 19% between 2012 and 2017, according to market researchers Mintel.
Although sugar-containing versions remain the most popular, many firms offer reduced or zero sugar products.
The sugar tax introduced in April has contributed to many brands focusing on low-sugar recipes to avoid the levy, Mintel noted.
Tam Fry, of Action On Sugar, said:”It is astounding that the Government feels that a consultation is required. It has been told for years that these drinks a quite unsuitable for children even if they play a lot of sports.
“We need a government that leads rather than going cap-in-hand to the court of popular approval since your average man-in-the-street knows little of the danger that these drinks are to young people.”