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Coca-Cola cannot fix the underlying mentality of the obesity epidemic
In the past year or so, Coca-Cola has become America’s obesity scapegoat. This is partly due to our nation’s growing distrust of big businesses and the fact that that the brand is neatly packaged for crusading convenience. Nabisco may be responsible for junk food like Oreos, but the brand is also on other, less nefarious snack items like Wheat Thins.
Recently, I completely surprised a friend by telling her that Dasani and Vitamin Water are Coca-Cola products.
Alice Park wrote on the Time website about a study showing that “soda and other sugary drinks contribute to the obesity epidemic in children”. I won’t even discuss my skepticism about their research methods, but I do want to speculate on their choice to focus the study on children. It seems turbulent from the get-go: children experience erratic growth spurts and are more likely to be unreliable test subjects. The researchers claim that soft drinks are significant contributors to childhood weight gain, which I find shortsighted. Are they more significant than ice cream? Cheetos? Perhaps these researchers have evidence that they are, but Park certainly should have included such information in the article if it exists.
In the midst of such attacks, Coca-Cola has stepped up and taken a stand against obesity. On January 14, they released a two-minute ad campaign called “Coming Together,” in which they: confront the issue of obesity; describe the efforts they’re already making to combat it; and remind us that a calorie is a calorie and the rules are simple—if you consume more than you burn off, you gain weight. Another ad campaign launched during American Idol and will air during the Super Bowl pre-game show. It’s part of the global “Be OK” campaign, and will depict a series of activities that can burn off the 140 calories in a can of regular Coke.
My dad, born in 1947, grew up thinking that sodas were special treats and not the one-every-day kind. I remember watching Wonder Years, and thinking that there are a few things more adorable than Kevin Arnold asking Winnie Cooper to go get a soda with him. Even as a 90’s kid, I had a strict limit of one can of Coke per day. What’s changed since 1947, since Kevin and Winnie, or since I was a kid?
Coca-Cola certainly hasn’t reintroduced actual cocaine into their formula, or started forcing it down our throats. One of Coke’s major goals has been to help consumers make informed decisions through methods like putting calorie counts on the fronts of cans and bottles. However, I argue that consumers who make bad decisions are, in fact, informed. They see the calorie counts on the back of the can. They know that Diet Coke is healthier, just like they know that carrots are healthier than brownies, and they continue to make choices that lead to obesity. Coca-Cola and other companies, try as they might, can’t fix the underlying mentality and lack of accountability that are truly responsible for the obesity epidemic.
Laura Ann Tipps