Pupils want ban on energy drink sales to children

Drinks which can contain as much caffeine as five mugs of coffee wreck concentration, say pupils. Picture (posed by models): Greg Macvean
Drinks which can contain as much caffeine as five mugs of coffee wreck concentration, say pupils. Picture (posed by models): Greg Macvean
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BRIGHT, sugary and promising a caffeine boost no matter how desperate the cramming session, they’ve been a favourite among youngsters across the Capital – until now.

Students at Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) are to wage a campaign aimed at convincing local shopkeepers to end sales of caffeine-rich energy drinks to schoolchildren.

Pupils are set to be turned away from tills and the addictive drinks removed completely from general display, with sales assistants fetching individual cans from back rooms for adult customers.

As soaring numbers of young people consume the drinks, often downing up to four cans a day, teachers have warned they can cause hyperactivity and misbehaviour, and make classes difficult to control.

Energy drinks typically contain anything between 80 milligrams of caffeine – the same as a large mug of coffee – to as much as 400mg.

Staff at WHEC have already banned them from school as part of a general crackdown on fizzy drinks and pupils said they wanted the whole Wester Hailes community to be “on board”.

WHEC campaigner Katie Ritchie, 15, who is in S5, said: “We just want to make sure we’re healthy and that we can concentrate in class.

“Pupils don’t want to be sold the drinks even though they’re buying them – it’s because they’re cheap and addictive, and their peers are taking them.

“I just wanted to make sure that the community are involved, that it’s not just a school thing.”

WHEC is one of a group of pilot schools in which pupils are preparing for local campaigns with support from the Edinburgh-based ­Responsible Retailing of Energy Drinks (RRED) drive.

Shopkeepers are to be approached by pupils armed with information on the harmful effects of energy drinks and asked to sign an agreement under which they would pledge not to sell them to children. While the RRED campaign aims to stop purchases by under-16s, WHEC youngsters are taking the drive a step further by pushing for restrictions to extend to all youngsters of school age.

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, Labour member for Liberton-Gilmerton and the founder of RRED, welcomed the commitment and said she was talking to three other schools about setting up campaigns similar to WHEC’s.

“It would work in the same way as it does when a shopkeeper doesn’t think someone is old enough to buy alcohol,” she said. “It makes much more sense if this comes from local schoolchildren, parents and teachers.”

Industry bosses said all energy drinks should clearly be labelled as “not suitable” for children, adding that their code of practice explicitly warns against promoting or marketing energy drinks to those under the age of 16.

Gavin Partington, director general at the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “Naturally it’s for retailers to decide what they wish to do.

“We believe our code is the responsible way to ensure parents have the information necessary to decide what is right for their families.”