Coca-Cola Launches Misleading Ads To Obscure Soda’s Role In Obesity Epidemic

Coca-Cola is pursuing a new PR strategy with the company’s first advertising foray into the national obesity debate. The ads, launched on Monday, come as the soda industry faces increasing scrutiny over the role that soft drinks play in the obesity epidemic, while it faces a declining share of the U.S. beverage market.

The Associated Press describes the new ads:

The Atlanta-based company on Monday will begin airing a two-minute spot during the highest-rated shows on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of becoming a more influential voice in the intensifying debate over sodas and their impact on public health. The ad lays out Coca-Cola’s record of providing drinks with fewer calories over the years and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

In the ad, a narrator notes that obesity is an issue that “concerns all of us” but that people can make a difference when they “come together.”

A second ad “features a montage of activities that add up to burning off the ‘140 happy calories’ in a can of Coke.”


But soda’s impact on health is a little more complicated than that. One-third of the sugar in Americans’ diets come from soda and sweetened beverages, and ample research links soft drinks to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. One study found children’s odds of becoming obese increased 60 percent for each additional 12-ounce soda. American children consume an estimated 7 trillion calories each year from soda.

In fact, research suggests that even when Coca-Cola touts diet soda as a healthy option, the company is still advertising a product that is linked to weight gain, heart attack, and stroke risks.

While Coca-Cola runs these ads, it will likely continue to wage well-funded battles against efforts to implement a soda tax, through the trade group American Beverage Association.