There is a ban on energy drinks in Maldives schools. There could be lessons in this for schools in other South Asian countries.
The Ministry of Education of the Maldives has recently banned possession, sale and consumption of energy drinks in all the Maldivian schools. This ban includes advertisement, promotion, sponsoring school events and sports activities by power drinks sellers. It has also banned students and school teachers from bringing these drinks to school.
The education ministry says the initiative has been taken to protect young people from the harmful effects of energy drinks. For any school activity or event, school managements cannot use sponsorship of such drinks. In addition to that, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure has banned advertising of energy drinks at all public spaces across Male city. There is also a ban on the selling of such drinks in hospital cafes. Since 2009, the Maldives Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has banned the import and selling of Red Bull products.
There is conclusive evidence that energy drinks have no health benefits. In fact, the combination of different chemicals is likely to do more harm than good, particularly for children. Some side effects of these drinks include elevated heart rate, hypertension, anxiety and interrupted sleep pattern. A recent study by the University of Miami suggests that consumption of fizzy drinks can cause such serious issues as heart palpitation and leading to sudden death.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “there is no reason at all for children and teenagers to have energy drinks. Such drinks contain stimulants including caffeine, guarana, taurine and ginseng. Guarana is a plant extract that is a common stimulant ingredient in energy drinks. One gram of guarana equals about 40 mg of caffeine. There are concerns about the effect of caffeine on the developing nervous system of children. Caffeine withdrawal can cause troubling symptoms such as headache, fatigue, irritability and other problems.
Providing basic education to its youth is the main priority of the Maldivian government. Schools across the country have a common curriculum from 1 to 7 grades and the net enrolment ratio is 95 percent. The literacy rate is over 98 percent with 49 percent females and 51 percent males. While education is playing a significant role in the country’s development, there is concern about youth development in terms of health, education and drug abuse.
According to the Maldives Independent, a leading newspaper, the government is planning to hike import duties on energy and fizzy drinks by 20 percent. According to statistics published by the customs
authority, 19 million energy drink cans were imported into the Maldives in 2015.
“Any advertisement of an energy drink on roads adjacent to schools or power drink advertisements that are visible while inside schools should be reported to the education ministry.” reads a circular. The ministry says the circular was issued after the president’s office communicated its decision to ban energy drinks in schools. This step by the Maldivian government came due to the negative effect on plans to launch a health awareness campaign.
The Table Tennis Association (TTA) of the Maldives has also put a ban on using energy drinks in its social centres. "This is a harmful product in all aspects. Some groups should take the initiative to ban energy drinks. We hope that other associations would also do it,” says Ismail Sujau, General Secretary, TTA.
Earlier, energy drinks were frequently advertised and sponsored during many school activities as well as events organized by the Ministry of Education. The consumption of energy drinks was common among the Maldivian youth.
More than half of the adult population of the Maldives has high cholesterol and over a third of adult men are regular tobacco smokers. Smoking was banned in public places in January 2013. It was the first tobacco control regulation in the country that showed steps were being taken by the government to tackle unhealthy lifestyles. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the Maldives had achieved all healthrelated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 deadline.
TV advertisements of energy drinks also have a negative effect on the children’s mind. Kids may unwittingly ingest large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants as a result of these ads. Schools need to incorporate such subjects in the curriculum that promote a healthy lifestyle. Fitness workshops should also be organized by the government for parents and teachers.
A balanced diet for kids and teens includes dietary carbohydrates rather than drinks high in caffeine or artificial stimulants. Children should primarily rely on water and obtain their carbohydrates from organic products. Fruit juice and milk are good liquid sources of carbohydrates unless the child is involved in prolonged intensive physical or athletic activity. Energy drinks are not the substitute for water and are potentially dangerous for children.
Committed to building a healthy society, the Maldivian government seems to be making the right moves.
More than half of the adult population of the Maldives has high cholesterol and over a third of adult men are regular tobacco smokers.