To a Tory 5/10/13:

I don’t know whether you read “The Yellow Advertiser,” but if you saw this week’s (Southend/Leigh/Shoebury edition, week ending Oct 4th) you may have noticed that certain local residents are protesting the sale of caffeine-based energy-drinks to children. I am a youth-worker at ***** **** and we are increasingly appreciating the seriousness of this situation. Caffeine is a drug, a habit-forming stimulant drug linked to all sorts of physical health problems plus a range of psychological disorders from paranoia to hyperactivity. To be sure, it’s not crack-cocaine: no-one would argue caffeine should be prohibited to adults, most of us here couldn’t survive a day without the stuff! But marketing this substance, ever so cheaply, in shiny logo’d cans, absent any information regarding the possible side-effects, to teens and pre-teens is a crime, or at least it ought to be. As far as I can tell, every youth-worker in Southend agrees that there is something sinister in “energy-drinks”: here at ***** **** we are observing the symptoms of drug-abuse among minors, we can provide you with specific examples of kids whose health and behaviour have been hurt by the consumption of these drinks. I made a comment on Facebook about this phenomenon and received responses from teachers and youth-workers and parents all over the country agreeing that there is a problem.

I’m wondering if this is an issue you are interested in being involved with? To the best of my knowledge no British politician yet has: but the matter is beginning to boil, in America senators and congressmen have raised the alarm, in Canada and France medical authorities have been urging a ban, in the UK a scattering of shops are already refusing to sell this drug to under-18s. But few businesses will choose to turn down money, just as few children can be expected to possess sufficient self-mastery to overcome sweet addictive poison. Leadership has to come from above and has to involve a change in the law. What ethical or political argument could reasonably be made against this proposition; who would assert that the physical and mental health of children is of less importance than the (relatively minor) economic interests involved?

The Tory thanked me (22/10/13) for contacting him, and appreciated that I am concerned… Then: “[The Food Standards Agency’s] advice is clear that children should only consume caffeine in moderation. To support this, the statutory labelling regulations state that drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre must be labelled with the term ‘high caffeine content’ in the same field of vision as the name of the food.” More: “The British Soft Drinks Association published a voluntary [!] Code of Practice in April 2010 that recommends prominent labelling on energy-drinks, such as ‘Not suitable for children, pregnant women and persons sensitive to caffeine.’ In addition, [blah blah blah.]” He thanked me again for contacting him.


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