Albania considers ban on energy drinks to under-18s

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 18, 2018 15:24

Albania considers ban on energy drinks to under-18s

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  • "I want support. I know that huge interests will be affected from the companies themselves to the media benefiting from their advertising. But I believe we have to resist and move forward with determination in these measures," says Erion Braçe, a ruling Socialist Party MP who chairs the country’s parliamentary economy committee

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TIRANA, Sept. 18 – Albania is trying to follow the UK’s recent legal initiative to impose a ban on energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18 and limit the advertising of sugar-sweetened beverages in similar measures to legislation in force protecting minors from the use of alcohol.

The proposed legal changes target preventing negative health consequences related to the use of heavily caffeinated and sugared drinks amid growing concern that those beverages are having on minors even in Albania amid growing consumption.

Several EU member countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Lithuania have already banned the sale of energy drinks for teens aged below 16 or 18, with the UK being the latest European country to apply restrictions.

In similar style, Albania is also trying to apply restrictions on the sale of energy drinks with more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre and curb the use of sugar-sweetened beverages in some amendments to a 2016 law protecting minors from the use of alcohol.

Ruling Socialist Party MP, Erion Braçe, the initiator of the legal changes, says it’s high time Albania also decided to ban energy drinks to children and follow the UK government’s example.

“I want support. I know that huge interests will be affected from the companies themselves to the media benefiting from their advertising. But I believe we have to resist and move forward with determination in these measures,” says Braçe, who also chairs the country’s parliamentary economy committee.

“The damage they [energy drinks] cause among children is huge. We have to decide now what kind of children we need to have. The banal capitalism we have in this country does not control energy drinks, on the contrary it offers discounts on two or more cans purchased for children, ” Braçe has posted on social media.

The proposed legal changes also envisage penalties ranging from 10,000 (€78) to 30,000 lek (€235) for businesses selling energy drinks or failing to advertise warning signs banning their sale for under 18s, in fines that also don’t spare adults accompanying minors drinking energy drinks in public spaces.

Penalties on advertising of energy drinks or heavily sweetened beverages in public spaces are much heavier and punished with fines ranging from 100,000 (€784) to 200,000 lek (€1,570). Restrictions are also set for their promotion on visual media, schools, cinemas or theaters during youth shows the same to the law protecting minors from alcohol.

The problem with the proposed legal changes even if adopted could be their field implementation, one of the main barriers hampering Albania’s rule of law due to good laws on paper and poor implementation in practice, often because of corruption.

Albania already bans sale of alcoholic drinks to minors aged under 18 and gambling for people aged below 21. Regardless, youngsters are one of the biggest alcohol consumers and frequent gamblers with thousands of electronic casinos and shopping centers scattered throughout the country even in downtown areas.

 

Health concerns

A 2016 survey conducted by Albania’s Public Health Institute showed energy drinks and heavily sweetened beverages were easily accessible in about a quarter of Albania’s elementary schools for students aged as young as eight to nine years old. The survey also identified the presence of advertising of unhealthy food and drinks in about 15 percent of the more than a hundred 9-year compulsory education schools included in the survey.

A series of studies on energy drinks have shown their advertised short-term benefits can be outweighed by serious health risks—which include risk-seeking behavior, mental health problems, increased blood pressure, obesity and kidney damage mostly attributed to their high sugar and caffeine levels.

The World Health Organization has also found reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages lowers the risk of overweight and obese children who are at higher risk of developing serious health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory problems, sleep disorders and liver disease.

 

Lower tax burden amid rising consumption

The proposed legal changes also come at a time when the tax burden on energy drinks has been eased this year after having their excise duty lifted.

In late 2017, ruling Socialist Party MPs voted to lift the excise duty on energy drinks in a move that stripped the state budget of about €2 million in annual income in apparent successful lobbying by importing companies.

Socialist lawmakers argued the excise duty at 30 lek (€0.23)/liter did not have an impact on curbing consumption, but hinted of revising legislation to ban the sale of energy drinks for people aged under 18, those suffering from diabetes and heart problems, in warnings already in place on energy drink packaging.

The excise duty on energy drinks was initially levied at 50 lek (€0.39)/liter in 2014, before it was cut to 30 lek/liter a year later and finally scrapped as of January 2018.

Currently, the overwhelming majority of energy drinks are imported from Austria and the Netherlands while domestic production has almost been stopped.

Every Albanian consumes an average of about 3 liters of energy drinks a year in a constantly growing trend even among youngsters.

Albania imported 7,807 metric tons of energy drinks in the first eleven months of 2017, up 18 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, collecting about 234 million lek (€1.84 million) in excise duties, according to latest data available from the customs administration.

Meanwhile, domestic production of energy drinks dropped to a mere 1,000 litres last year, down from about 84 metric tons during January-November 2016.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 18, 2018 15:24