Energy drinks may be banned for under 16s in Wales

Banning the sale of energy drinks to young people under the age of 16 and restricting takeaway hot meals near schools are among the ideas being put forward by the Welsh government to reduce rising obesity in Wales. The country currently has about 1.5 million overweight adults, 600,000 of whom are considered obese – just under half of the entire population.

One in four children will also be overweight or obese by the time they enter primary school. The cost of obesity is estimated to cost the NHS £6.1bn a year in the UK.

The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that young people between the ages of 11 and 18 consume up to three times the recommended maximum amount of sugar. Some energy drinks contain 21 teaspoons of sugar and the same caffeine as three cups of coffee, and research shows that children who drink at least one energy drink per week are more likely to report symptoms such as headaches, sleeping problems and stomach problems, as well as low mood and irritability.

There is also evidence that regular use of energy drinks is linked to low involvement in education, and concerns have been raised that these high-caffeinated drinks affect students’ learning. Deputy Minister for Mental Health Lynne Neagle said: “We want to hear people’s views on how we can support the nation to be healthier and reduce the number of people who are obese or overweight.

“Often, foods high in sugar or high in fat or salt are more readily available and promoted, making it more difficult for people to make the healthy choice. “We know this is a difficult time for people with the rising cost of living who putting people under enormous financial pressure, but we also know that if current obesity trends continue, more people in Wales will die prematurely from cancer, heart disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We need an open and honest conversation about how we can bring about incremental change in our choices and behavior. We are talking about reversing important problems that have accumulated over generations in our food environment.”

The UK government has announced plans to ban the sale of energy drinks to children in 2019, but has still not legislated. Meanwhile, several supermarkets, including Tesco and Adsa, have joined a voluntary sales ban, but retailers have since claimed that retailers are not enforcing the self-imposed ban.

A consultation launched on Thursday and lasting until September 1, asks people to give their views on a ban on the sale of energy drinks to young people under the age of 16. It also listens to people’s views on limiting the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt, ending free refills on sugary drinks, and expanding the publication of calories on menus.

And whether planning new hot meal takeaways should consider proximity to schools and universities, taking into account factors such as existing satiety, local obesity rates and social demographics.

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