Banning under-16s from energy drinks will just make them thirst for more

Surely lowering the caffeine amount in energy drinks or raising their price would deter children fro

Surely lowering the caffeine amount in energy drinks or raising their price would deter children from drinking them, rather than just trying to ban under-16s from drinking them, says Steven Downes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Banning under-16s from energy drinks will do little to stop kids from drinking them, says Steven Downes

I'm an awkward cove. If you tell me I can't do something, I want to do it. Standing up during a football match; talking in the library (before it became acceptable, at which point I wanted to shut everyone up).

Running in the school corridor; throwing beer mats during a Camra festival, despite the stewards' warnings of 'having someone's eye out'; taking food or drink into any shop that has a 'polite notice' on the door (passive-aggressive rubbish); parking on the public highway outside someone's house where there is a 'polite notice' to not park.

It's hardly unique to me – we all love our small yet satisfying acts of defiance against authority.

And it starts young. Before babies and toddlers can talk, they understand how to ignore the word 'no'. The spirit of independence is seared on our souls from day one.

It's such a simple concept, so why do governments so easily forget – or ignore – it?

However much politicians grandstand about freedom when they want to be elected or noticed, the knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem is new legislation or new rules.

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It's not always wrong, but too often it is.

The latest little gem from the Conservative government is the aim of banning the sale of caffeine- and sugar-pumped energy drinks to children (under 16s).Now, being an objectionable character, I might have considered myself a firm supporter of such a move.

I certainly think they should be banned in schools, where the peaks and troughs of energy and mood they create are detrimental to learning.

In fact, I rather wish the likes of Red Bull and Monster did not exist.

For some reason, the drinks – and the cheaper versions in garish cans – are too often clutched by angry-looking younger people with neck tattoos and a Staffy.

The caffeine and sugar don't seem to be cheering them up, just making them antsy.But is it really wise to ban the drinks' sale to under 16s?

All it'll do is send a message that energy drinks are the forbidden fruit, providing a challenge to children to get hold of them and defy authority – as was the case with porn mags in days gone by (or so I'm told).

It'll also be yet another tiresome chore for shopkeepers, who have enough to do just to stay in business.

Alcohol, cigarettes, glue, fireworks and other items require ID – asking whether someone is old enough to drink a can of Boost or Pussy is a 'challenge' too far.

What next – cholesterol testing for over-50s trying to buy crisps? Limits on the number of bottles of Prosecco that can be bought by middle-class women, to stave off functioning alcoholism?

How about making children show how many fillings they have before they can buy sweets?

A more sensible approach to the problem of caffeine-buzzed children roaming the streets with bulging eyes and a hunger for skulduggery could be to restrict how much caffeine there is in each can.

Force children to drink four times as much to get their kicks – they'd soon be put off by the side-effects of flatulence and constant trips to the loo.

It's hypocrisy, though.

For I'm supposed to be arguing against new laws, not dreaming them up.

In fact, the whole thing is doubly hypocritical, because most of the people pushing for the energy drinks sales ban for under-16s probably spend most of their day wired on caffeine themselves – if they're anything like me.

I drink too much coffee. Sometimes my eyes bulge and sometimes I hunger for skulduggery.

More often, though, I have post-caffeine comedowns that make me tetchy and sleepy, or highs that come with too much talking and twitchy hands and legs. I swing from abuzz to asleep – not a good layer to add to bipolarity.

Then there are the headaches when I haven't had my morning cup or three.

Coffee is so damned civilised, though, isn't it? The smell, the association with Italian cool, the coffee shop culture, the bearded baristas, the machines.

Energy drinks, meanwhile, are such an uncivilised way to imbibe caffeine. The absence of nice crockery is reason enough to sneer, but then you add the dreadful can designs and the absence of 'artisan' and it's a disaster.

But what makes us caffeine addicts think we can look down our finely-tuned noses and outlaw energy drinks?

Snobbishness is not enough.

Nor is any misguided desire to be overweening nannies to our children.

Let them have the odd energy drink – and be grateful it's not a harder drug.

Do you agree with Steven? Let us know in the comments below

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