Costa Coffee shops can now refuse to sell to caffeine to under-16s.
The coffee shop giant, which has more than 2,400 stores across the UK, has said it’s up to individual branches to decide whether to serve caffeine to children.
There is no policy banning children from buying coffee but Costa says it ‘does not encourage’ it.
A 12-year-old girl was refused an iced coffee in a store in Wales last weekend, and her father said the chain ‘should be clear’ with its policy to avoid confusion.
The company’s guidelines are thought to have changed in the summer this year, around the same time supermarkets stopped selling energy drinks to children.
Costa Coffee, which has over 2,400 stores in the UK says individual branches have the power to decide whether or not they serve caffeine to under-16s
Some supermarkets around the UK now refuse to sell energy drinks which are high in caffeine to under-16s, though there are no rules on buying coffee.
A Costa spokesperson told The Mirror: ‘We do not encourage the sale of caffeine to children under 16 and it is at store discretion to question a customer’s age if they have any concerns.
‘Our advertising is not directed at children and you must be 16 or above to own a Costa Club Card.
‘Caffeine information is available upon request should a customer wish to know the level of caffeine in their favourite Costa coffee.’
It is not clear how many stores have decided to refuse to sell coffee to children.
Caffeine is a stimulant drug which can make people feel more alert and awake, but it can also interfere with their sleep.
Energy drinks which contain a lot of caffeine have been found to make children more likely to behave badly, get fat, struggle to sleep, or suffer from depression, although this hasn’t been linked specifically to the caffeine and may be caused by sugar.
The unnamed father of the 12-year-old refused an ice coffee in Conwy, Wales, said people don’t know where they stand if the rules change between stores.
He said if the chain is concerned about children’s health it would be better to stop selling foods high in fat and sugar.
GOVERNMENT PLAN TO BAN CHILDREN BUYING ENERGY DRINKS
The UK Government is seeking to ban children under the age of 18 from buying energy drinks because they contain so much caffeine and sugar.
The drastic move comes amid fears that the drinks are helping fuel obesity, tooth decay, bad behaviour and sleep problems among young people.
They were hailed by campaigners including TV chef Jamie Oliver – but critics said the government was obsessed with banning things.
Research has found two thirds of young people aged consume energy drinks, and a quarter of six-to-nine year-olds.
But one 250ml drink can contain around 80mg of caffeine – as much as a strong cup of coffee and equivalent to nearly three cans of cola.
A voluntary code has seen a number of bigger retailers and supermarkets, such as Boots, Waitrose and Morrisons, stop selling the products to minors.
The Government is currently running a public consultation on the plans, which finishes on November 21.
He told the Bristol Post: ‘I had never heard of Costa doing this before, her older sister has often bought her own drinks at Costa before.
‘This is as an occasional treat rather than regular coffee drinking and a lot of Costa drinks do seem to be aimed at younger people.
‘They should be clear with their policy, they either serve under 16s or not, rather than just being at the discretion of particular places. Then people know where they stand.
‘If they are concerned about health then perhaps they should they also stop selling cakes or high calorie drinks to overweight children because obesity is a far more serious health issue in this country than caffeine consumption.’
The Government is currently running a public consultation on banning the sale of energy drinks to under-18s – the consultation ends on November 21.
Experts have warned the high levels of caffeine in the drinks – similar to the amount in a cup of coffee – contribute to behavioural problems, sleep loss and anxiety.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, warned they can cause obesity, sleep-deprivation and depression.
Professor Viner said children already have enough energy and eat enough calories, and that adding energy drinks to the mix was unnecessary.
Writing in the British Medical Journal in September he said the drinks, which can be shockingly high in sugar, ‘undoubtedly contribute to the overall calorie excess and resultant obesity epidemic among our children.’
Energy drinks can contain more than 175mg of caffeine in a 500ml can – as much as three espresso coffees.
Professor Viner adds evidence is emerging that children who drink caffeine experience anxiety, depression, increased hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention.
He said this is alarming because psychological problems can lead to poorer results at school and drug use as they grow older.
The children’s health expert said caffeine is not necessary for children because they get energy naturally from ‘a good diet, refreshing sleep, exercise and, most importantly, interaction with other people.’
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF ENERGY DRINKS?
More than half of young people experience side effects from energy drinks, research suggested in January 2018.
Some 55 per cent of those aged between 12 and 24 years old suffer everything from vomiting and chest pains to even seizures from the drinks, despite most consuming less than the recommended one-to-two beverages a day, a study found.
As well as the drinks’ alarmingly high caffeine levels, the researchers believe consuming them with alcohol or during exercise makes them even more dangerous, and urge for them to be banned for young children.
The scientists from, the University of Waterloo, Ontario, asked 2,055 young people about their consumption of energy drinks.
Results reveal 24.7 per cent of youngsters have experienced a fast heart rate, while 24.1 per cent have struggled to sleep, due to energy drink consumption.
Some 18.3 per cent have suffered headaches due to the drinks, while 5.1 per cent report having experienced nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea.
A further five per cent have sought medical attention due to their symptoms and 3.6 per cent report experiencing chest pains.
Alarmingly, 0.2 per cent have even suffered seizures after drinking the beverages.
Of those who have suffered symptoms, the ‘vast majority’ consumed less than one-to-two energy drinks a day.
The findings were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.