Lithuania ban on energy drink sales to under 18s comes in with broader restrictions and warnings
From November 2014, Lithuania has become the first Baltic State to ban the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18. The ban implements a law passed earlier following a campaign claiming there were adverse health effects of such products on children.
The Lithuanian law also prohibits the wide promotion and marketing of energy drinks as ‘enhancement’ or ‘support’ drinks. This means not only restrictions on selling energy drinks, but also on advertising them in schools and all places frequented by children under the age of 18, such as cinemas, theatres, concerts and sporting or charity events.
The Lithuanian action against energy drinks also followed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) release of a study in 2013 about usage of energy drinks in Europe. The study found that energy drinks were mostly consumed by teenagers who were responsible for almost 70 per cent of sales in Europe.
Energy drinks and alcohol
Additionally from July 2014, all energy drinks advertising campaigns must include a compulsory “do not consume with alcohol” phrase in Lithuania. The new law came into effect after research suggested that mixing alcohol and energy drinks can be a potentially dangerous combination. According to experts, the caffeine in energy drinks could mask the effects of alcohol, leading to a state dubbed ‘wide awake drunk’. While in this state consumers may underestimate the effects of alcohol and drink more than they normally would, which is especially dangerous for youngsters.
According to market research organisation Canadean, Lithuanians are the heaviest drinkers of energy drinks in the Baltic area with a forecast consumption of 6 million litres in 2014 – compared to only 0.6 million litres ten years ago in 2004. However, Lithuania has also taken the toughest stance in a fight against caffeine content energy drinks.
Roberta Kniuipyte, Senior Research Analyst at global market research organisation Euromontior, said the enacted legislation would be a “severe blow” to the energy drinks market in Lithuania.
“Energy drinks showed a rapid expansion in Lithuania during the last decade with even local manufacturers tapping into this market,” Ms Kniuipyte said. “Energy drinks posed average annual volume growth of 17 per cent in 2011-2013 in Lithuania, however due to negative legislative environment its volume growth prospects are set to decline,” she said.
“A fraction of sales will move to private imports of this drink from neighbouring countries, and part of it will likely be replaced with substitutes, such as RTD coffee, while the main threat lies in the magnitude of EU countries following the lead of Lithuania‘s action,” Ms Kniuipyte said. “Energy drinks sales in Lithuania comprise just a small part of energy drinks sales in Europe, therefore larger markets banning the sales to underage people would cause a significant sales movement downwards,” she said.
Raised concerns about energy drinks in Latvia and Estonia
Lithuania is not the only Baltic state which is cracking down on energy drinks. The government in Latvia drafted a bill to restrict the sale, marketing and distribution of energy drinks in April 2013. Although the legislation was meant to be effective from January 2014, it has been postponed due to the uproar from both the producers and importers.
In Estonia similar concerns about the young consuming excessive amounts of energy drinks have been raised. Although serious discussions on energy drinks legislations have fallen by the wayside since a change in government, it still remains an area of concern in Estonia.
“Energy drinks consumption in both Estonia and Latvia has taken a slight drop since 2012, while in Lithuania it has shown an increase,” said Shyam Patel, Analyst at market Canadean. “This could perhaps be a contributing factor as to why the issue is being addressed most vigorously in Lithuania, while it remains a closely monitored situation in the two neighbouring countries for now,” he said.
Energy drink sales to under 18s in Australia
Australian Food News reported in March 2014 that a petition had been presented in the Australian House of Representatives calling for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under 18 years of age. The petition carried 13,600 signatures, with backing from the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of New South Wales.
Energy drinks are regulated under Standard 2.6.4 of the Food Standards Code, which sets a maximum about of 320mg per litre.
“Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine mixed with ingredients like taurine, guarana, glucuronolactone and ginseng, which elevate the heart rate and blood pressure and disrupt sleep,” said Tanya Cameron, President of the CWA of NSW. “To children this is dangerous, especially when these beverages can be purchased practically anywhere with no limit as to how many can be bought at one time,” she said.
In response, the Australian Beverage Council has stated that the calls for a ban were “misguided and lacking evidence”.
“Australia’s strict regulations, in addition to the cap on the caffeine content, equivalent to an instant cup of coffee for a 250mL can (80mg), make our energy drink regulations the toughest in the world,” said Geoff Parker, Australia Beverages Council CEO.