Labour Would Ban Sale of Energy Drinks to Children

The party has also proposed putting a 9 p.m. watershed on advertising junk food on TV and restrictions on advertising ‘less healthy foods’ on social media.
Labour Would Ban Sale of Energy Drinks to Children
Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, England, on June 11, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Victoria Friedman

A Labour government would ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under-16s, party leader Sir Keir Starmer has announced.

The proposals would affect the sale of energy drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre. This means sugary soft drinks like Pepsi or Coca-Cola would not be affected, but a 500ml can of Monster Energy would exceed it.

Labour said on Tuesday the measures were needed because these kinds of drinks with “dangerously high” amounts of caffeine not only contribute to tooth decay, but have a detrimental effect on children’s behaviour in school.

Sir Keir said selling these kinds of drinks to children is “not justifiable or acceptable,” adding that if Labour wins in the July 4 election, “We’ll stop it.”

“I will always take the tough decisions necessary to keep our children healthy,” he added.

Drinks Aimed at Children

Sir Keir singled out the energy drink Monster and justified the party’s decision not to propose similar bans on other high-caffeine drinks such as coffee.

He said drinks like Monster are “aimed at children” and these are the ones children are consuming.

“Monster, I think, is the number one,” he said.

The Labour leader continued: “Just to give you a sense of that, the caffeine in that is the equivalent of several espressos, which is why it’s having such an effect on children’s behaviour. Talk to anyone who’s in a school and they’ll tell you what the problem is.

“But also it’s got a very detrimental effect on their teeth.”

Sir Keir said he was “genuinely shocked and angered to learn that more children go to hospital to have their teeth taken out, six to 10-year-olds, than any other operation.”

Sugar Taxes and Smoking Bans

This proposal would not be the first government action aimed at curbing the consumption of soft drinks.
A Conservative government in 2018 introduced the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), or “Sugar Tax,” which imposed a levy on soft drinks containing added sugar, such as most carbonated beverages like Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

The tax meant that drinks with a total sugar content of 5g or more and less than 8g per 100ml would be taxed 18p per litre. That increases to 24p per litre on drinks with 8g or more sugar per 100ml.

There are exceptions for beverages such as milk-based drinks and fruit juices.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, England, on June 11, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough, England, on June 11, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
This year, the Conservative government attempted to impose age restrictions on smoking whereby it would be illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone born after Jan. 1, 2009. While the act of smoking itself would not be banned, the progressive ban on sales to rising generations would eventually see the habit disappear.

However, on May 24, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill was shelved before Parliament shut down ahead of the General Election and failed to become law.

In their manifesto published on Tuesday, the Conservative Party said it would bring forward the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in its first King’s Speech. Labour has also said it would reintroduce the bill if the party comes to power next month.

Labour Targets Fast Food and Junk Food

Sir Keir made the pledge to restrict caffeine drink sales ahead of a trip to Whale Hill Primary School in Middlesbrough where he launched his Child Health Action Plan, which covers the party’s strategy for tackling childhood obesity, cutting NHS waiting lists for children, and increasing access to mental health support and dentistry services for children.

Labour also plans to stop fast food businesses from “targetting” children by empowering local councils to block the development of such outlets opening up outside of schools.

Junk food ads would also be restricted, with Labour planning on implementing a 9 p.m. watershed for junk food advertising on television. Online paid advertising of “less healthy foods” on social media aimed at children would also be outlawed.

The Conservatives are not far from Labour’s position, announcing that it would “legislate to restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar” to combat childhood and adult obesity.

The Liberal Democrats plan to extend the Sugar Tax, making the levy cover milk-based and juice-based drinks considered high in added sugar.

The Epoch Times contacted Monster for comment.

PA Media contributed to this report.