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19 Dec, 2019 23:44

‘Like tobacco companies’ : Coca Cola blasted for telling teens its soda is 'healthy lifestyle' choice in new study

‘Like tobacco companies’ : Coca Cola blasted for telling teens its soda is 'healthy lifestyle' choice in new study

Internal emails from Coca Cola have shown the carbonated-beverage giant is trying to change the unhealthy image of their brand by specifically targeting active teenagers.

A new report from The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) is blasting the Atlanta-based corporation for advertising its sugary drinks to teenagers and trying to convince them that soda is part of a healthy lifestyle. 

"The large number of children targeted and reached by Coke as part of their PR campaigns is a serious concern from a public-health perspective," the organization said.

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IJERPH’s study looked at two specific advertising campaigns, one for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and the other for Movement Is Happiness. The study examined internal Coca-Cola emails relevant to the campaigns and found the company was trying to "increase Coke brand health scores with teens."

To target teens, the study alleges that Coca-Cola teamed with social media influencers, including members of Olympic teams, and advertised their product in healthy and active situations. They also used their Movement Is Happiness campaign to specifically combat opposition to their product and to “build support broadly in a host of categories,” including women and the media.

“The documents show that Coca-Cola tried to use public relations to manipulate teens into thinking that sugary soda is healthy, when really it increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and other ills,”said Gary Ruskin, a co-author of the study, and co-director of US Right to Know, a food transparency group that helped produce the research. “Tobacco companies shouldn’t tell teens what is or is not healthy, and neither should Coca-Cola.”

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Ruskin went on to call for an investigation by the government into Coca Cola’s public relations strategies.

Responding to the study and criticism, Coca-Cola said it is currently decreasing sugar in its products and never specifically said that Coke is healthy for anyone.

"At Coca-Cola, we recognize that too much sugar isn't good for anyone. That's why, around the world, we are reducing the amount of sugar in our products and taking other steps to help people reduce their sugar intake," a spokesperson said. "We have long had a global policy of not marketing to children under 12, and all of our marketing campaigns are designed to comply with that policy."

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