Children are getting far more caffeine from tea than energy drinks

Laura Donnelly
Under the Government proposals, sales of energy drinks to under 16s will be banned  - Reuters

Children are getting four times as much caffeine from drinking tea, as from energy drinks, a think tank has said, as it attacks Government plans to ban the sale of the soft drinks to minors.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said the proposals were “unscientific” and “discriminatory” - pointing out that many other beverages consumed by children contain more sugar and caffeine. 

The proposals, drawn up in the last Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, call for ban on all energy drinks such as Red Bull and Monster, to all those under the age of 16.

But the IEA report says there is more sugar in a can of Pepsi than in a can of Red Bull, and points out that children get most of their caffeine from tea and coffee. 

The study shows that those aged between 10 and 17 get 11 per cent of their caffeine from energy drinks. Meanwhile, 39 per cent comes from tea, and 10 per cent from coffee, the report shows.  

Cola - which would not be covered by the ban-  was also found to be a key source of caffeine, making up a third of all caffeine consumed. 

Health campaigners have argued in favour of the ban, with TV chef Jamie Oliver claiming the products are “turning our kids into addicts”.

But the new report says plans to ban the sale of energy drinks to teenagers are “unscientific” and “discriminatory”– unfairly targeting teenagers, while there was a lack of scientific evidence linking the drinks to negative behaviours.

The report cites the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee which concluded “the current scientific evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a measure as prohibitive as a statutory ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.”

The report shows that there is less sugar in a can of Red Bull than in a can of Pepsi.

Like for like, both have 11 grams per 100ml, but in total, the 250ml can of Red Bull contains 28 grams, compared with the 36 grams in a 330 ml can of Pepsi. 

And the study says many single - serve coffees from high street chains contain more caffeine than one can of an energy drink. The 80 milligrams caffeine in a can of Red Bull compares with around 320 milligrams in a Starbucks Americano (venti) and 370 milligrams in a Costa Americano (massimo). 

Christopher Snowdon, author of ‘Vox Pop’ and IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics, said:

“Banning the sale of energy drinks to minors is not justified by scientific evidence and would be discriminatory and disproportionate. The vast majority of caffeine and sugar consumed by teenagers comes from other products.

“The government is not proposing a ban on the sale of drinks which have a higher caffeine or sugar content – and nor should it – so it is hard to see how a ban on one particular type of beverage can be justified.”

“Placing an age restriction on energy drinks would put them in the same category as alcohol and fireworks, products which pose a demonstrable risk to users and those around them. As the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee confirmed last year, the evidence of similar risks from energy drinks is sorely lacking.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We all have a responsibility to protect children from products that can be damaging to their health, wellbeing and education. Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and often sugar, and we have seen widespread concern from those working closest with children about the impact these drinks are having.

“The consultation on ending the sale of energy drinks to children is closed and received a high level of interest, with 93 per cent of respondents agreeing that businesses should be prohibited from selling these drinks to children. Our response will be published shortly.”