Diet in childhood has a large influence on what, and how, we eat in later life. That is why investing in our children's futures right from the start is crucial. This will maximise progress towards two of our Public Health Priorities for a Scotland:
- where we flourish in our early years
- where we eat well, have a healthy weight, and are physically active.
Last year, I launched A Healthier Future: Scotland's Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, in which I set out our vision where everyone eats well. In it, we committed to consulting on restricting the sale of energy drinks to young people under the age of 16. This consultation fulfils that commitment.
Concern about the consumption of energy drinks by children and young people has grown over the past few years. It is a concern that has been raised particularly by parents and teachers. The UK Government also recently consulted on introducing a ban in England. There have been calls from industry for an aligned approach.
As we set out in the Delivery Plan, we welcome the leadership shown by many retailers in stopping their sales to young people under the age of 16. The purpose of this consultation is to ask whether this is enough and in particular, whether mandatory measures are needed. And if so, how they might best be framed. This includes asking what would be the most appropriate age for any restrictions.
Many energy drinks have high levels of sugar. They can also be harmful to oral health due to their acidic nature. However, it is their high caffeine content and the detrimental effect this may have on young people's health that has led to this consultation. I am especially concerned about the impact these drinks can have on the quality of young people's sleep. Poor sleep can have huge consequences on physical and mental health; too much caffeine can disrupt good sleep.
We consult because we want better policy - and better outcomes as a result. We want to ensure the steps we propose taking are proportionate and are likely to deliver beneficial outcomes. Your responses will inform the consideration of our next steps and relevant impact assessments.
I thank you in advance for responding to this consultation.
Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing