The global soft drink industry is dominated by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper/Snapple, the three corporations have a total combined annual income of over $100 billion.
Commonly referred to as “Big Soda,” these corporations target and spend enormous sums of money on marketing their products worldwide to communities of color, especially young people.
Coca-Cola, the biggest of the big, is committed to growing even larger, with plans to double its sales by 2020by through an extensive marketing plan aimed at teens. “
However the teens being targeted, especially California’s youth, are not all happy with the special attention and are responding back with the slogan, “Big Soda, stop targeting me. Your products hurt our community.”
And they are not alone. The Coalition for a Healthy California is fighting back and advocating for a health impact fee that would be a real game changer. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends “effective tax on sugar-sweetened beverages” as an essential step to ending childhood obesity.
Indeed, soda and other sugary beverages do great damage to communities of color.
Seventy-one percent of California’s children will experience tooth decay by third grade, resulting in 900,000 missed school days per year. Of greater consequence, half of all Latino and African American children will develop Type 2 diabetes during their lifetime, and according to a Northern California study, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos and South Asians have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all groups.
However, Big Soda bombards those groups with twice the level of advertising, in comparison to white audiences.
For example, Coca-Cola’s success with their Share a Coke campaign, soda cans were printed with the 250 most common first-names in the US, led to a subsequent marketing campaign focused on tagging cans with Hispanic surnames that could also be worn as temporary tattoos. The California organization, Latino Rebels, referred to the latter as stereotyping and “Hispandering.”
These epidemics afflict our entire society, especially our communities of color, but there’s growing awareness about the negative health effects of drinking the sugary sodas. A new poll sponsored by the California Endowment, reports that the majority of voters want their elected officials to take action in the form of both taxes and health warning labels on sugary beverages.
Still, state and local governments lag behind. According to WHO “the greatest obstacle to effective progress on reducing childhood obesity is lack of political commitment and failure of government and other actors to take ownership, leadership and necessary actions.”
Giving hope to those concerned about Big Soda’s negative effects, Berkeley voted last year to set an excise fee on sugary beverages. Since then, the City has already collected over $1.5 million in revenue to be applied to disease prevention in the hardest hit neighborhoods.
Building on that momentum, legislation is now being considered in the State Assembly to apply a statewide 2-cent per ounce health impact fee on sugar-sweetened beverages. The revenue from AB 2782, “Healthy California Fund,” would be invested in programs that provide greater access to clean drinking water, fresh fruits and vegetables, diabetes prevention programs, and more physical education in communities with the greatest need, including lower income and communities of color.
The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC), California Black Health Network (CBHN), The California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB), and the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL) have joined forces with other statewide and national health advocates including the California Primary Care Association, the California Dental Association, California School-Based Health Alliance, Roots of Change, American Heart Association, Public Health Institute, and American Diabetes Association to form the Coalition for a Healthy California to combat the Type 2 diabetes crisis that is affecting California’s communities of color and residents with lower incomes.
As California’s leading ethnic health-advocacy organizations, we are calling on state legislators, and especially our elected officials of color, to join us and other community leaders in this fight.
Encourage your representatives in the State Assembly to support AB 2782, “Healthy California Fund.” Join the campaign against Big Soda to protect our youth and communities of color from predatory corporate targeting that is damaging our health and our state’s future.
Xavier Morales, Ph.D. is the executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Mark LeBeau, Ph.D. is the executive director of the California Rural Indian Health Board; Rod Lew, MPH is the executive director of the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership, and Sandra Poole, MPA, Interim President/CEO, California Black Health Network.