Czech lawmakers consider regulating energy drinks

The popularity of energy drinks among Czech schoolchildren has been steadily rising in recent years and so have concerns about the dangers of such drinks. The lower house of parliament is currently debating the possibility of introducing regulatory measures, in line with many other EU countries.

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Parents and experts have long questioned the suitability of energy drinks for children and young adults. But it is the controversial US drink Prime that has sparked a new debate about introducing a ban on such products.

The heavily caffeinated drink, promoted by influencers on social media, has recently gained something of a status symbol among Czech schoolkids.

At the moment, Czech shops can only sell Prime Hydration, a drink composed of coconut water and electrolytes without sugar and caffeine, but with a high potassium content.

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The other product, Prime Energy, contains 200 millilitres of caffeine, an equivalent to two Red Bulls or six cans of Coke. While it is not yet available in brick and mortar stores, you can buy it online.

According to experts, such a drink can be a health hazard for young people and children, causing all sorts of health problems, from attention disorders to heart palpitations and obesity.

In reaction to the growing concerns surrounding energy drinks, a group of MPs have put forward a proposal for their regulation. One of the authors of the bill, Martina Ochodnická from TOP09, says that while regulation in itself is not sufficient, it is still needed:

“There are several proposals concerning the form of regulation, based on examples from abroad, concerning age limit and advertising. We should also consider designating special areas in stores for alcohol, energy drinks and other addictive substances, to make it clear that they are harmful to health.”

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Veronika Jakubcová, head of the country’s Soft Drinks Producers Association, argues that similar regulations have proven to be ineffective and calls for better education.

“Alcohol is regulated by law and there are still minors who consume it. Energy drinks have been sold for more than 25 years and their harmfulness has not been proven.

“The biggest sources of caffeine are black tea, followed by coffee, then so-called cola-type drinks, and then energy drinks, which  are next in line. So it's really about moderation.”

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However, with their colourful packaging and high amount of sugar, energy drinks are much more appealing to children than coffee or tea. Recent surveys have pointed out that almost one in ten schoolchildren is prone to risky use of energy drinks and it is unrealistic to expect that they will practise moderation.

While the controversial Prime Energy drink has already been banned in several countries, including Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands, it is still freely available in neighbouring Germany. Other countries, such as South Africa, have issued a blanket ban on drinking the beverage in schools and the Polish Sejm recently banned the sale of all energy drinks to minors.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Karolina Koubová
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