Merchants have four months to comply with a new ban on the import, manufacturing and marketing of all energy drinks containing alcohol, caretaker Economy Minister Nicholas Nahas and caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil announced Monday.
The decision follows two years of research which showed that alcohol and stimulants are “very dangerous when taken together,” Nahas told The Daily Star.
The Shura Council was consulted on the matter, and the General Secretariat of the Cabinet agreed to the ban, which was announced Monday.
The ban includes, but is not limited to, alcoholic beverages containing the common stimulants caffeine and taurine. According to the decree, the decision was made based on a suggestion by a committee acting with the Consumer Protection Association.
The combination of alcohol and caffeine has, Nahas said, caused “many casualties” in Lebanon.
While no precise study has been conducted into the number of hospitalizations directly related to the consumption of these beverages, Nahas said he was convinced that they posed a legitimate threat to the Lebanese public.
According to the decision, Lebanese merchants have four months to sell or otherwise dispose of their current stocks of these drinks.
“There is a business implication. We don’t want to harm people,” Nahas said of the decision to include a four-month buffer period in the decree.
Alcoholic energy drinks such as XXL, which contains vodka, caffeine and taurine, have become staples at corner stores and gas stations around Beirut. XXL’s Lebanon Facebook page has garnered over 76,000 likes.
Nahas said the combination of alcohol and chemical stimulants posed a “real threat” to consumers, and the decision follows similar steps taken by governments across the world. The Food and Drug Administration, America’s national consumer protection agency, has declared caffeine an “unsafe ... additive” in alcoholic beverages.
The decree applies only to prepackaged alcoholic energy drinks, Nahas said. Individuals, for example, can still lawfully order a “vodka red bull” at any Lebanese bar.
Mixing caffeine and alcohol “should be forbidden” in bars, he said, but added that his ministry did not have the authority to make such a decree.
“If you want to mix in your house, that is not forbidden,” he said.