Thursday, April 17, 2014

Reps considering energy drinks ban in Nigeria


Red bull

A Lagos lawmaker wants a ban on energy drinks.


A motion seeking a legislative ban on the sale of energy drinks in Nigeria has gained a spot on the agenda paper of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.

The motion is promoted by Yacoob Bush-Alebiosu, member representing Kosofe Federal Constituency, Lagos. Mr. Bush-Alebiosu said the use – abuse – of energy drinks has endangered a generation of Nigerians guzzling the drinks despite its health hazards.

The motion is not popular with other members and failed a chance to be heard on December 13. Mr. Bush-Alebiosu promoted the motion alone.

He argued that several brands of energy drinks such as Red Bull, Power Horse, Vault, Red alert and Burn contain high levels of stimulants and ingredients with high health risks. He said health risks like kidney damages, seizures and strokes, high blood pressure, and heart and brain dysfunction may arise from the consumption of these drinks.

“The heart diseases caused by the consumption of these energy drinks, most especially among young people, is alarming, and threatening the health of the younger generations,” Mr. Bush-Alebiosu said.

The lawmaker is the first Nigerian government official to call for an outright ban on energy drinks. In 2008, the former director General National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dora Akunyili, warned the public about the hazards of energy drinks for the first time.

Mrs. Akunyili’s approach, which is still sustained at the agency, was to persuade consumers, especially pregnant women, off the products, citing its high level of sugar and caffeine.

In 2011, as the use of energy drinks grew amongst young adults in Nigeria, Mrs. Akunyili’s concerns was re-echoed by NAFDAC with a higher alert level.

During an advocacy workshop for pharmaceutical inspectors last year, NAFDAC’s Director of Inspection and Establishment, Hauwa Keri,  advised the government to find a way of “arresting the situation” after she warned that “the future of the country is at stake.”

There are over 31 energy drinks sold in the open markets in Nigeria. Energy drinks are favourites for Muslim young adults observing the religious alcohol abstinence. It is also a favourite cocktail ingredient for alcohol drinking socialites in Nigeria. Often, cups of energy drinks are mixed with highly alcoholic drinks like Vodka and Whiskeys as enhancers.

According to Mr. Bush-Alebiosu, mixing these drinks with alcohol masks caffeine intoxication and increases the fatality of the drinks.

Although NAFDAC regularly swoop markets for fake and unregistered energy drinks, it is yet to raise the lethality quotient of the drinks.

Governments of Denmark, Germany, Norway and France have placed different level of bans on energy drinks.

Like most other heavily regulated consumables, Nigeria with its large population and weaker government agencies, is a flourishing market for energy drinks.

When next the motion comes up for hearing, the lawmaker hopes to persuade his colleagues to muster a strong voice that will coax Nigeria’s health Ministry to immediately ban sales, distribution and consumption of all brands of caffeinated energy drinks in all locations across Nigeria.

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