PARIS (AFP) - French lawmakers on Thursday approved a tax on energy drinks such as Red Bull over health concerns, amid growing claims that high-caffeine products are hazardous to young people.
Last month, the country's food safety agency recommended that children and teenagers avoid having popular drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and burn, and that these not be consumed with alcohol or during intense physical activity.
The one-euro-per-litre (S$1.7-per-litre) tax would generate 60 million euros annually. It was approved by lawmakers in the lower house National Assembly and still needs to get the go-ahead of the upper house Senate.
Last year, a similar tax was adopted by Parliament based on what lawmakers said were the health hazards of consuming energy drinks with alcohol, but it was later rejected by France's top court, the Constitutional Council.
This time, though, lawmakers approved the tax on the basis of the drinks' potential health risks even if consumed alone without alcohol.
Energy drinks have been in the firing line in several countries as health experts worry that their caffeine content poses risks in youngsters in the form of heart arrhythmia and higher blood pressure.
In France, energy drinks have been on the market since 2008 and still constitute a "new phenomenon that is fast expanding," according to food safety agency Anses.
Nearly nine million French consume the drinks, a quarter of whom are between 14 and 25.
Many down the drinks on nights out in bars, clubs or concerts, but a lot of people also have them while exercising.
The Anses said it had received several reports of serious cardiovascular side-effects, and cited the death of a 16-year-old girl from cardiac arrest that was "very likely" due to her consumption of energy drinks.
Members of the opposition on Thursday slammed the new tax, saying public health problems should not be used to create new levies.
Bernard Accoyer of the opposition right-wing UMP party said there were no limits to such taxes, claiming they could bring about the death "of pastry shops, tobacconists and wine and spirits retailers."
Concerns over energy drinks have also emerged in the United States, where representatives of top brands Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar were forced to testify in a Senate hearing over the summer.
Executives maintained they did not pitch their products to children, despite their extensive use of social media and sponsorship of sports.
France already approved a tax on sugary drinks in December 2011 as part of the government's fight against obesity.