This month, the UK’s largest teaching union, NASUWT, has called for a total ban on energy drinks on school premises – but some legislators are considering taking the idea even further.

The union’s concerns come as a response to increasing reports about the negative effects of the drinks, which have high caffeine and sugar levels. The organisation’s national officer for education, Darren Northcott, has stated that the products are tantamount to “readily available legal highs”, and that “teachers have registered concerns” about “the contribution of high energy drinks to poor pupil behaviour”.

Research from Newcastle University and Fuse (The Centre for Transitional Research in Public Health in the North East) has shown that children as young as 10 are buying the drinks, which can be purchased for as little as 25p and are readily available in vending machines, supermarkets, and corner shops.

This is crucially important as a typical, single 500ml can contains 160mg of caffeine – equivalent to two shots of espresso. This is far higher than the 105mg maximum recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for 11 year-olds.

Similarly, in 2017, 78% of energy drinks exceeded the daily recommended sugar intake for a child aged 7-10 years. Numerous studies have shown that, in excess, both ingredients can be detrimental to human health and wellbeing.

With younger people the prime targets of TV adverts and sponsorships, both teachers and health experts are calling for change. Norman Lamb, chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, and former Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health, has said that “the potential health risks and impact on sleep of energy drinks is something I would like the committee to consider evidence on in the New Year”. Furthermore, he noted that, “given epidemic levels of consumption among under-16s we have to consider banning the sale of these drinks to that group”.

The UK has the second highest average level of energy drinks consumption in the world and so this response will be of great concern to manufacturers. Moreover, with the drinks disproportionately consumed by younger people, any ban would inevitably slow demand in a market where sales have risen drastically in recent years.

Ultimately, while the British Soft Drinks Association may argue that that energy drinks have “been deemed safe by regulatory authorities around the world”, it seems that opinion in the UK is starting to move against the beverages.