FOR Communication 16/2023: State paternalism strikes at freedom of choice: restrictions on energy drink sales
Sejm (Polish lower house of parliament) has passed a law prohibiting the sale of energy drinks to individuals under the age of 18. New regulations also ban the sale of such beverages in edu-cational institutions and vending machines. Restrictions are to come into effect on January 1, 2024.
The law was supported by PiS, as well as groups supporting the ruling camp, the Left, and Polska 2050. Only seven MPs from the Konfederacja, Libertarians, one MP from the Civic Coalition (Tadeusz Zwiefka), and Paweł Szramka voted against.
This regulation will be among the strictest in the European Union. To date, only Lithuania and Latvia have prohibited the sale of energy drinks to those under 18 years old.
Last Friday, the Senate (Polish upper house of parliament) voted in favor of adopting the law without a single opposing vote. However, several amendments were proposed. Firstly, the restrictions would come into effect from July next year. Secondly, energy drinks produced before the law comes into force could still be sold without restrictions for two more years. Thirdly, the Senate excluded vending ma-chines located in facilities accessible only to adults from the ban. However, it can be reasonably as-sumed that the Sejm will reject the Senate's amendments.
Energy Drinks, as defined by the Act, are beverages containing caffeine in a concentration exceeding 150 mg/l or any addition of taurine. Typically, an energy drink contains approximately 300-320 mg/l of caffeine, which means that a standard can of such a beverage contains about 80 mg of it. According to data referenced by the Council of Ministers, the daily caffeine intake of children should not exceed 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. Therefore, a 40-kilogram child can consume up to 100 mg of this substance daily.
Based on the same data, the daily intake of caffeine from energy drinks in children slightly exceeded 3 mg/day, and among those who consume them regularly, it was just under 43 mg/day.
The Council of Ministers' position also states that, according to the European Food Safety Authority, it is not recommended for individuals under the age of 16 to consume energy drinks. However, the gov-ernment deemed this sufficient justification to introduce a ban for all minors "due to the ease of age verification," even though there is no basis for setting the age limit so high. Age of students can be verified based on school identification cards, including digital mLegitymacja.
Another controversial point of this amendment is that, according to the parliamentary print, the ban on the sale of energy drinks will apply to all educational system units. However, according to the Education Law, this also includes institutions only adults can attend. Therefore, it will not be possible to sell energy drinks in teacher training centers or social service worker colleges. The ban will also affect adults who are not currently in contact with children.
The full content of the publication can be found in the file to download below.
Contact do author:
Gabriel Hawryluk, FOR junior economist analyst
Files to download