“One in ten young Czechs is prone to risky consumption of energy drinks,” the State Health Institute warned a few days ago.
Doctors and nutrition experts point out the possible harmful effects of these drinks, such as sleep disorders, anxiety or palpitations.
Public debate has recently been stirred up by the growing popularity of the Prime energy drink among children. Its basic variant in a half-liter bottle contains 200 milligrams of caffeine, which is equivalent to drinking about three espressos.
The sale of energy drinks is still not regulated in any way, which is also perceived by the Ministry of Health. “The use of energy drinks by young people is, of course, a big problem that must be solved,” responded the spokesperson of the department Ondřej Jakob to Seznam Zpráv.
“The position of the Ministry of Health will depend on expert debates, the outcome of which cannot yet be clearly predicted,” he noted.
“It’s Only a Trend”
However, a change could come, as it follows from the answers of the members of the House Committee on Healthcare, which Nauzal addressed.
“We are dealing with a parliamentary proposal where there will be some kind of this restriction. We will talk about the option that will be feasible,” Josef Flek (STAN) told Seznam Zprávám.
“I have two to three variants ready: Limitation to 15 years. No sale under 15 years of age. The second is a ban on sales to under 18s. We are still talking about limiting advertising,” he added.
“I see no reason why children should be consuming it. They have enough energy at their age. It’s just a trend,” added the deputy, who convened the third round table at the beginning of December, which deals with the issue of energy drinks.
The aim of the meeting is to allow all parties to express their views on the issue of energy drinks – obesitologists, parents, schools, pediatricians and the Association of Non-Alcoholic Beverage Manufacturers, according to which education is significantly better than potential restrictions on sales. Therefore, according to executive director Veronika Jakubcová, the union is preparing an awareness campaign. She pointed out that the producer of the Prime drink is not a member of the union.
Members of the health committee intend to limit where energy drinks can be sold, as they did in Latvia, so that they are not so easily accessible to children.
“The amendment to the Act on Addictive Substances is now almost ready,” confirmed Martina Ochotnická (TOP 09).
“If there were to be a legislative amendment, we will of course support that the sale of energy drinks to children and teenagers be limited,” said Karla Maříková (SPD).
Member of Parliament and doctor Věra Adámková (ANO) also agrees with Josef Flek: “The availability of energy drinks for school-aged children is alarming in our country.”
In some European countries, there is a so-called sugar tax, i.e. a tax on sugary drinks. For example, Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS) talks about its possible introduction, as energy drinks often contain more sugar than, for example, cola drinks.
“From this tax, we can subsequently finance not only the treatment of obesity, which plagues more and more children and adolescents. According to the calculation, it could be up to 2.3 billion per year for us – and for me, that is a decent investment in our future,” said Svoboda.
Safe intake of caffeine
The National Institute of Health states that caffeine intake throughout the day is safe for children 3 mg/kg body weight. For example, a 13-year-old child weighing 45 kg should not consume more than 135 mg of caffeine per day. An adolescent weighing 60 kg should not drink more than 180 mg.
One quart can of energy drink contains on average between 80-150 mg of caffeine, with 200 mg considered a safe daily dose for an adult.
“For comparison, a cup of coffee contains roughly 60-90 mg of caffeine, a cup of black tea about 50 mg,” the institute said in a press release.
“Influencers Should Think A Little”
The rise in popularity of the said Prime drink, behind which influencers Logan Paul and KSI stand, has only contributed to the long-running discussions about the regulation of the sale of energy drinks.
“Thanks to Prime, we can point out the limitations of advertising. It is necessary to talk about it and regulate sales in some way,” said Flek.
According to Ochotnicka, the best option would be self-regulation of the market. The popularity of Prime is mainly due to its promotion by influencers on social networks and the advertising they create for it. Adámková also confirms this. “Social media is powerful.”
Ochotnická also sees the fact that children often lack proper education about addictive substances as problematic. Information about the harmful effects of energy drinks often does not reach people because influencers do not draw attention to them.
“Influencers should think a little about what they’re promoting,” Flek emphasized. “As politicians, we should take it upon ourselves to work with those who can influence the opinions of young people,” adds Ochotnická.
Regulation of the sale of energy drinks
In 2014, Lithuania adopted an amendment to the Law on Food, which stipulates that it is forbidden to sell, buy or otherwise transfer energy drinks to persons under the age of 18.
Two years later, the Latvian government adopted a law on the management of energy drinks, which for example prohibits the sale of energy drinks to persons under the age of 18, prohibits the sale of energy drinks in the premises and on the territory of educational institutions and stipulates that energy drinks must be placed separately from other food in shops.
In Hungary, they chose a different procedure – they introduced it in 2011 tax on products for public health reasons.
Poland managed to agree in August 2023 banning the sale of energy drinks with caffeine and taurine to children and teenagers under 18 years of age.
In the United Kingdom, some retail chains (such as Tesco, Lidl or Morrisons) made a unilateral decision limit the sale of beverages with a high caffeine content persons under 16 years of age. It also exists in Scotland banning the sale of energy drinks to pupils in school facilities.