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Ban on the sale of energy drinks to children and adolescents. Parliamentary debate

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On Thursday, the Sejm debated the ban on the sale of energy drinks to people under 18, in educational institutions and in vending machines. Most MEPs support the restriction. The opposition voiced reservations as to the mode of adopting the regulations.

On Thursday, the Sejm considered the report of the health committee on the MP’s draft amendment to the Act on Public Health and other acts. Committee rapporteur Michał Cieślak (PIS) indicated that the project gained the support of the committee and had a positive position of the government. He argued that the purpose of the act is to limit children’s and youth’s access to energy drinks, the consumption of which has negative health effects for young people.

Not a ban on consumption, but a ban on sale

The draft, he noted, does not prohibit children and youth from consuming energy drinks, but prohibits the sale of these drinks and “restores parental control”. The Minister of Sport, Kamil Bortniczuk (PiS), presenting the position of the club, indicated, among others, that the draft introduces an obligation for producers and importers of energy drinks to mark packaging. He said that the regulation imposes sanctions for non-compliance with its provisions, analogous to those that exist in the Polish legal order in relation to tobacco products. The deputy emphasized that similar or more far-reaching restrictions on energy products are in force in many EU countries.

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– Polish and foreign specialists have no doubts that the abuse of drinks containing, for example, taurine (…) is harmful during the growth of a young person – he noted. The problem, he continued, was also signaled by the teaching staff and psychological circles.

The Minister explained that the draft also included provisions on the Sports Talents programme. These are regulations on the collection of statistical data. Sports Talents is a nationwide program for recognizing motor predispositions of children and youth and identifying gifted students. Its goal is to discover the most talented students in sports. Bortniczuk said that the PiS club would support the project.

“We disagree about the legislative process”

Rajmund Miller (KO) stated that the Civic Coalition club has no objections as to the purpose and benefits of the act. However, he added, legislative processbecause provisions going beyond the scope of the Act were added to the draft. The provisions, as he pointed out, were also introduced during the second reading. – As KO, we will support the very idea of ​​the act, we disagree about the legislative process. Our position will depend on the adoption of the amendment in which we request the deletion of the section on youth sports, pointed out Miller. Made the appropriate amendment. Marek Rutka (Left) assessed that when it comes to proceeding in violation of the principles of legislation, “the project will not get a place on the podium, but it will be in the top ten”. He pointed out that the consumption of energy drinks by children and adolescents is indisputable. He referred to data according to which in the 10-18 age group this rate is 68 percent, while in the adult group – 30 percent. The submitted act, he argued, is an example of a lack of cooperation between health departments and sport, because the exchange of comments took place not in the offices, but only in the committee. He also pointed out that the amendments to the Sports Talents program should not be included in the pending regulation. He informed that the club of the Left is in favor of introducing restrictions on access to energy drinks, which he postulated in 2019. He submitted amendments. Dariusz Klimczak (KP) said that the intention of the drafters is to protect children and youth from the negative effects of consuming energy drinks.

“I regret that this intention has been dominated by prohibitions and restrictions and no one has thought of the most important part: health education,” he said. The MP of the Polish Coalition said that the regulation hinders the operation of entrepreneurs and “is an example of how PiS can make people’s lives difficult under the pretext of little chance of achieving an effect.” On behalf of the circle Confederation Grzegorz Braun took the floor. – We would be glad to favor the future of the nation, but are all our pious intentions supposed to take the form of legislation? – He was asking. He announced that the Confederation would not support the project.

Questions about the lack of an educational campaign

Michał Gramatyka (Poland 2050) asked e.g. for a precise definition of energy drinks. He pointed out that the draft only states that these are beverages containing caffeine in a proportion of more than 150 mg/l or taurine, excluding substances naturally present in it. He pointed to the penal provisions for breaking the restrictions. – You can scare, but I am asking where are the government educational campaigns informing about the harmfulness of energy drinks in children – he added. The MP of Poland 2050 also raised doubts regarding the provisions relating to Sports Talents, indicating that the data would be easily available. Answering questions from deputies, Bortniczuk pointed out that the amendments had been submitted in accordance with the law – during the first reading, at the second meeting of the committee. In his opinion, everything went according to procedure. According to him, there is also no way to de-anonymise data without parental consent.

– You are demonizing this database – he addressed some deputies. – We are not making any breach, we are not opening any door to something that is dangerous – he stressed. The ban on advertising and promotion was abandoned in the draft, these provisions were deleted. – This is justified by the communication we had with the European Commission. (…) If these provisions were included in this act, the notification would undoubtedly have to be carried out – Bortniczuk said on Wednesday at a meeting of the health committee. On Thursday, answering questions from MPs, he repeated these arguments. – I do not rule out that in the next term of office we will take an initiative to extend the scope of the regulations, after obtaining notification from the European Commission. We know that all countries that apply for such a notification receive it, but after a process lasting at least half a year, he added.

Limiting not only sales, but also advertising

The original version stipulated that advertising and promotion of beverages with added caffeine or taurine may not be carried out, among others, on television, radio, cinema and theater between 6.00 and 20.00, with the exception of advertising conducted by the organizer of a competitive or professional sports event in during the event. Advertising of such drinks – as planned – would also not be possible, e.g. in the youth and children’s press; on the covers of newspapers and magazines; on poles, advertising boards and other fixed and movable surfaces used for advertising; on posters, including large format posters. The draft, in connection with the amendments submitted on Thursday, will be dealt with again by the committee.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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