Intended for healthcare professionals


Ban on sale of energy drinks to children

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 19 September 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3856
  1. Russell Viner, president
  1. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  1. president{at}

It’s time to legislate

“Not recommended for children.” This is the warning on every can of energy drink sold in the UK that contains 150 mg or more of caffeine per litre. But when should a product warning turn into legislation? That’s the debate currently taking place after recent government proposals to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England.

The announcement, quite understandably, has sparked much discussion, with the usual “nanny state” debate and questions raised about whether these choices are best left to parents. The truth is there is some evidence that caffeinated energy drinks may be harmful to children and young people. However, more robust debate is needed to make a decision that leads to legislation, and this consultation provides opportunity for that.

So what do we know about caffeinated energy drinks? Such drinks are essentially a combination of sugar and caffeine, although some contain non-sugar sweeteners and amino acids. Caffeine is, of course, a stimulant for the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, providing a synthetic …

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