Public health advocates in Massachusetts have submitted legislation that would help curb obesity in the Commonwealth by significantly reducing soda consumption. The bill would eliminate soda's exemption from state sales tax -- an exemption which was originally intended to keep down prices of essential consumer products: namely, food.
However, according to an article in today's Boston Globe, the measure is being vigorously opposed by the American Dietetic Association's, American Cancer Society's, American Academy of Pediatrics', and American Academy of Family Physicians' corporate partner(s) - Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
According to the article, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo - working through the American Beverage Association (which they heavily fund) - is working to oppose not only this but every other measure throughout the nation which would reduce soda consumption and thus help curb the obesity epidemic.
According to the article: "The American Beverage Association has been aggressively fighting taxes on soda, as cities and states across the country look for new tools to counter an obesity epidemic and raise revenue amid squeezed budgets. It has spent millions fighting initiatives that impose product-specific excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and has been successful in nearly every attempt."
The Rest of the Story
Sadly, whether they intend to or not, the American Dietetic Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Family Physicians are helping to defeat this important public health legislation by promoting the image of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as leaders in the fight against obesity.
By partnering with these companies, taking their money, promoting the companies on their web sites, giving these companies immense public relations benefits, and helping to legitimize the biased science put out by these corporations, the ADA and the other health groups are aiding these companies' efforts to kill not only this but every other piece of public health legislation throughout the nation that would help curb obesity by reducing soft drink consumption.
Moreover, these health organizations are violating their own stated principles in accepting money from these opponents of efforts to curb obesity in the United States.
For example, the American Cancer Society misleads the public by stating that it will not partner with any company whose products contribute to obesity. Clearly, it is violating its own stated criteria here. The ACS claims: "If a product contributes to obesity, a major contributor of cancer, it's out."
Yet, the truth is that the ACS accepts money from the Coca-Cola Company, which indisputably manufactures products that contribute to obesity.
The American Cancer Society is compromising its honesty and integrity. It is lying to the public, and all for the sake of receiving money from Coca-Cola. Another way to view this of course is to see that the ACS has been bought off by Coca-Cola and that they have to resort to lying to the public to feebly defend their lack of integrity.
Another example of how these health groups are compromising their integrity is the American Academy of Pediatrics, which publicly states that Coca-Cola is a leader in the movement to improve the health of children worldwide.
Exactly how does opposing every piece of public health legislation that would reduce obesity by lowering soda consumption constitute being a leader in the movement to improve the health of children worldwide?
The rest of the story is that with "enemies" like these health groups, the Coca-Cola Corporation and PepsiCo do not need friends. These health groups are doing more than these soft drink companies could ever dream of to aid them in their efforts to oppose public health measures that would decrease the sale of their most lucrative products.
To be clear, I'm not arguing that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo should be supporting soda taxes. The fact that they oppose these taxes is strong evidence that these measures are effective ones that would actually hurt their bottom lines, and therefore would have an effect on obesity. They logically oppose these taxes because it would harm the sales of their products -the very mechanism by which these policies help promote the public's health.
My criticism here is directed at the health groups which are aiding these corporations in their efforts to undermine measures that are critical in the movement to address the obesity problem in the United States. I find it very sad that these organizations are more interested in monetary donations than in working with the rest of us in public health to try to put a dent in obesity and the devastating effects it has on the lives of individuals and families.