Should Soda Makers Stop Marketing To Kids Under 16?

The Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI), and the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO). have joined together to start the “Global Dump Soda” campaign.

Concerned that developing countries will start drinking as much soda as we fatties here in the States (a legitimate worry, we must admit,) they’re asking governments around the world to require soda companies to change the way they do business. They want more low-sugar alternatives to soda, smaller portion sizes of existing high-sugar sodas, prominent display of calorie information, and warning labels that warn consumers to drink water to quench thirst.

In addition, they’re asking that soda companies “stop promoting and selling sweetened beverages, including sports drinks and fruit flavored beverages and teas, in all public and private elementary, middle, and high schools” and to instead sell fruit juice (in container sizes of 250 ml or less.)

These sorts of campaigns always remind us of something we noticed way back when we were in school. When kids were asked how to stop other kids from smoking, the first thing our classmates always said was, “Advertise against it,” but when the instructor asked the class if they were influenced by advertising they always said no. Either the kids were lying or they knew that cheesy “don’t smoke” ads and warning labels didn’t work and wouldn’t keep them away from the forbidden pleasure of smoking themselves to death. Probably both.

Personally, we drank too much Coke in high school because they hid the coffee machine in the teacher’s lounge. Damning teenagers to high school without caffeine is cruel and unusual punishment, even if the alternative is to be fat with rotten teeth.

In our elementary school, however, soft drinks were not allowed and we didn’t consider it much of a hardship at the time. On the other hand, death would surely have come to anyone attempting to pry the “Ecto Cooler” juice box from our tiny fingers.

Do you think soft drinks should be banned from schools?

The Global Dump Soda Campaign


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  1. rixatrix says:

    Seems to me to be just another “treat the symptom, ignore the illness” type solution to the rampant spread of obesity.

    On one hand, I love Coke. On the other, I recognize it’s bad for me.

    On one hand, high-school-aged kids should be able to make their own decisions. On the other hand, what are schools doing marketing soft-drinks anyway?

    Seems like the whole world needs an overhaul in thinking. But kids with cars and independent streams of income are going to do what they like, regardless of rules, so I don’t know if banning Coke from schools will make much of a difference in the long run without some global action. And that’s a big improbability.

  2. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    That is quite a demonic looking picture.

    Don’t know about banning sodas in schools. Cold turkey isn’t always the best way of kicking a habit.
    I think a lot of the fruit juices have just as much or more sugar than soda does.

    I actually like the taste of water so I pretty much gave up soda a while back.

  3. Cowboys_fan says:

    I am not against banning them in school but not banning advertising altogether. Coke is not gonna’ cause cancer or death. I am not for smaller portions though. As a child growing up in the far north, we used to get 280 ml cans, as opposed to the 355ml. There was no option. I went on a summer vacation to Texas and they only had the larger cans. It was quite an adjustment getting used to the smaller sizes again and I remember being overjoyed when the larger cans came my way and now I could never go back.

  4. f0nd004u says:

    I think that soft drinks should be banned from public schools.

    The problem is, the soft drink companies (e.g. Coca Cola) give a loooot of money to public schools for the privilege of having their machines in the lunchroom. I’d imagine that this is pretty lucrative to school administrators, considering how underfunded the schools are already.

    But really. I don’t see how soda in schools (even high schools) is in any way beneficial. The caffeine argument has holes; I’ll admit that I always needed my fix before I went to class, but I always made it at home and brought it. And if you can afford to buy a Coke every day, you can afford to buy coffee. My high school had a student-run expresso shop on campus. That stuff is a hell of a lot better for you that soda…

  5. marsneedsrabbits says:

    I really dislike the CSPI, because they are dishonest, so as a knee-jerk reaction against pretty much any position the CSPI takes, I say “no”.
    See: [] for more on the CSPI.
    As a general principle, I don’t want or need the government telling me what to eat or feed the kids. I was awake during health class in elementary school and am aware that a diet that consists solely of Coke & Cheetos is probably not a good thing. Thus, I eat a varied and balanced diet and somehow manage it without the government doing my grocery shopping and in spite of ads on TV.
    People who are smart eat well.
    People who are dumb are too dumb to be changed by slick advertising.

  6. Red_Eye says:

    Speaking as a excessive soda drinker with rotten teeth I have to say yes. Stop the marketing to kids, not that they wont try to pull a fast one like the cereal folks.

    There are other problems with excessive soda consumption. Osteoporosis, calcium deposits in soft tissue etc. There are plenty of reasons that soda shouldn’t be a first choice for a minor. Blocking advertising may help or perhaps warning kids may help too, inform them of the issues. Not all will listen but some would.

  7. FLConsumer says:

    How about banning high fructose corn syrup instead? That’d have more benefit to the kids than just picking on one particular type of drink.

  8. goodkitty says:

    @FLConsumer: Yep. Ounce for ounce, reading labels shows most fruit drinks have more HFCS than coca-cola. And with modern processing, who can say there’s much natural ‘fruit juice’ actually in the carton at all? The only real solution is for manufacturers to stop being forced to add ingredients to every little thing that make our bodies crave more. Of course, nobody wants to be ‘first’ to lose sales.

  9. axiomatic says:

    Yeah I’m against banning anything. However, speaking as a type II diabetic and a sufferer of kidney stones. Soda’s are bad for both of these conditions. And as far as the kidney stones go, my urologist says that the diet sodas are even worse than their sugary counterparts. He also suggests that Splenda is also not good for you due it its manufacturing process. Apparently no matter how hard you try to dilute splenda it retains “sharp edges” that scratch up your insides as you process it.

    What do both my endocrinologist and my urologist suggest? Tap Water (not bottled water) but tap water and a Brita (or similar) filter of some kind.

  10. Benstein says:

    The only time in my life were I could drink unlimited coke without becoming a fatty was when I was < 16 years old. The answer is to ban overprotective parents and let there kids actually go out and play.

  11. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    Why don’t we just ban children.

  12. UpsetPanda says:

    Soda is bad for you, but it’s not the soda company’s fault that you just keep on chugging it like you need it to survive. I had a friend who would drink 12 cans or more of mountain dew a day, and when we finally intervened, she dealt with it by buying two of the 2 liter bottles, and downed both of those in half a day. Bottom line, mountain dew isn’t making you drink soda, you are doing it on your own. Banning isn’t an answer to ending bad habits.

  13. id voice of reason says:

    we just need to have better products to buy….coke and pepsi are all sugar and so damn bad for you…why dont they market something that will make us grow and be healthy???

  14. bookling says:

    I’d rather teach kids to make their own choices and to accept the consequences that come with those choices.

    And if the government is going to start banning soda in schools, I think they’d better give the schools extra funding to make up for the loss of money they’d get from soda companies. It’s sad that schools have to depend on money from commercial corporations, but funding for schools is so low on the government’s list of priorities that it’s necessary.

  15. lincolnparadox says:

    I have to say that this issue is more of a proper parenting issue. Pediatricians and dentists alike both warn parents that “kids shouldn’t drink sugary sodas.” It’s a high calorie liquid that serves no real purpose, except leading to more tooth decay.

    Once in a while, a soda isn’t going to kill your kid or add ten pounds to his waistline. But, kids should be drinking milk, water and no more than 2 servings of juice daily, as beverages.

    This suggested regulation of advertising is just another attempt to remove responsibility from parents.

  16. XianZomby says:

    Absolutely teach kids to make a choice. “A, B or C, Corey?” But you can choose what those choices are. So instead of Pepsi, Coke and Gatorade in the drink machines, you can put water, milk and sugar-free ice tea in there. Then brilliant, sophisticated, worldly teenagers can choose from the options their parents think are best for them. Instead of choosing from the options the cola companies think are best for the cola companies.

  17. alk509 says:


    As a general principle, I don’t want or need the government telling me what to eat or feed the kids.”

    You must have been reading a diffeent story – this one’s about making soda companies change the way they market and sell their product, not about not letting you feed it to your kids…

    I agree that what I feed myself and my kids is my responsibility and not the government’s, but that’s not the issue: it is the government’s responsibility to make food and drug manufacturers be as truthful and explicit as possible about negative health effects of their products, and to prevent them from advertising to my kids in places where I have no control (e.g., school). To put it bluntly, your right to kick ends where my ass begins: I think drugs should be legal, but I don’t think there should be a school-sponsored pusher in every school. Same thing for soda companies – I support their right to sell whatever they want, but don’t push it on my kids behind my back.

  18. ry81984 says:

    Schools should only sell heathly foods and drinks.
    If kids want to be unhealthy, it should be done on their time not the schools.

    Banning all unhealthy garbage will force companies like fritolay pepsi, and coke to make better products that can qualify as healthy to be in schools.

    Setting the trend for healthy living has to start somewhere and its definatly not being set in the home.

  19. alk509 says:


    This suggested regulation of advertising is just another attempt to remove responsibility from parents.”

    Actually, it’s an attempt at making up for the huge number of idiots who are allowed to have kids and refuse to raise them. Sure, it’s nice to think that every parent out there is a responsible, educated, Consumerist-reading individual teaching and enforcing proper eating habits on their kids, but the truth is far from the ideal.

    You can argue for personal responsibility all day long, but the fact s there are a lot of irresponsible idiots out there.

  20. csdiego says:

    Yeah, schools have no business selling soda.

    I didn’t develop a soda habit growing up because my mom was big on healthy eating and the only time we had soda was at birthday parties. I have no idea what that would have been like if I could have gotten soda at school, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

  21. mconfoy says:

    @FLConsumer: do you have any evidence that high fructose corn syrup is any worse for you than sugar? The scientist that speculated that it was says he has zero proof that it is.

  22. mconfoy says:

    What about marketing diet sodas? My doctor and kids’ doctor says have at it if there is no sugar. They sell zero calorie flavored water in my kids’ school as they don’t allow the crap to be sold in Loudoun County, VA schools.

  23. UpsetPanda says:

    I think especially in low income areas, or areas with a higher proportion of poor families, children need healthier solutions. It doesn’t replace good parenting, but helping families with their nutrition would be a step.

  24. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    I don’t think it would be a bad idea to ban soda in schools. Of course, kids do have a lot more free time than most people think, so if they want soda they’ll still get some. My main problem with the Coke machines at my high school was that all the money went straight to football (right, the thing we all live for) while all the other school organizations had to sell things on their own to get by.

  25. Youthier says:

    Our music department used to get all the Coke money and that was pretty much all the support they got, so I have a difficult time with this.

    I can understand elementary school kids but… I guess all high school kids are subjected to Army recruiting and that can be as bad for you as soda, right?

    Why do they advertise Coke and Pepsi anymore? Who doesn’t know it’s available?

  26. SaraAB87 says:

    The soda machines in my high school were only turned on after school, so you could not purchase the drinks before or during school hours. You were allowed to purchase from the juice machine though, but as many posters suggested the fruit juice served in those machines is just as bad as soda and has just as much sugar if not worse for you.

    What I don’t understand about this whole obesity epidemic is that fatty, greasy bad for you foods are all thats served in schools nowadays and no one is doing anything about it, yet the epidemic has to be blamed on food advertising to kids, which yes is part of the problem however I think if this nation was to somehow revamp school meals to include only healthy foods it would really make a big difference in fighting this obesity epidemic.

  27. UpsetPanda says:

    Diet soda is horrendous and really gross, and I’m not convinced they help you at all. Drinking less soda is better than substituting with diet.

    Anyone know anything about Coke zero? It actually tastes more like “real” soda but I don’t know anything about the sweetener they use.

  28. mconfoy says:

    @CaffeinatedSquint: Besides the fact that you are not my doctor, and they all say the same, do you have any evidence its not a better substitute? Scientific evidence that is?

  29. BigNutty says:

    When are people going to take responsibility in raising their kids with knowledge and guidance instead of blaming everything on a company that is marketing to kids?

    Wake up you lazy parents and raise your kids right or better yet, don’t have any to begin with. Ever hear of Birth Control?

  30. UpsetPanda says:

    @mconfoy: Well, there’s this – []

  31. Lordstrom says:

    I’d rather ban public schools more than anything. They are garbage.

  32. nardo218 says:

    On the other hand, death would surely have come to anyone attempting to pry the “Ecto Cooler” juice box from our tiny fingers.

    HAH! Loved that stuff too. It started my love affair with any food dyed green.

    Yes, HFCS-laden drinks should be banned in schools. As well as all the other disgusting fatty foods the caf makes. We had Papa Johns distributing in our caf, wtf? Like exhausted hungry kids are going to have the salad bar.

  33. SaraAB87 says:

    With the amount of advertising being targeted at children in America (read: all of it), its nearly impossible to raise kids without them experiencing at least some of it. If you shelter them from it then you raise sheltered kids that cannot deal with anything or socialize, and then grow up to be the kids you don’t want to have. Advertising is going to happen in this world, figuring out how to deal with it and your children is your best defense, there are lots of books written on the subject, go read one of them or read some internet articles on the subject.

  34. mconfoy says:

    @CaffeinatedSquint: “One possible part of the explanation is that people who see they are beginning to gain weight may be more likely to switch from regular to diet soda,” Fowler suggests. “But despite their switching, their weight may continue to grow for other reasons. So diet soft-drink use is a marker for overweight and obesity.””

    My dentist thanks me and when my doctor says switch to sugar sodas, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  35. kushboy says:

    As a Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award Finalist ( there were specific rules in place. No child under 16 could hold or “want” a Coke. In this year’s contest, no children could even be in the film at all.

  36. csdiego says:

    @mconfoy: I’m not a doctor, and I might not be able to get you to quit drinking diet soda. But one thing I’ve heard that makes sense to me is that the sweet taste of diet soda keeps your sweet tooth active. You end up eating more sugar in your food (not just in desserts, but in breads and in ketchup and other sweet sauces) than if you drank non-sweet drinks.

    I’ve also read that the insulin response is triggered by diet drinks even though they’re calorie-free, so you’re more likely to store any calories you eat with the soda as fat, or to be hungrier sooner.

  37. Ben Popken says:

    Studies have found that although people say they’re impervious to advertising, the reality is that it has a significant effect on their purchase decisions.

  38. jydesign says:

    It’s access, not advertising when it comes to how much soda kids throw down. I’ve noticed a trend in some of my kids’ pre-teen peers to go to a ‘Quick-Whatever-Mart’ place or any restaurant that allows self serve drinks: they grab the largest container (the ones I like to call an External Bladder), and proceed to fill it with equal amounts of all the various sodas available from the given fountain. They don’t give a hoot what the brand, flavor, or color is. It’s just a mega concoction of carbonated sugar syrup goo – the ultimate anti-brand ironic ectoplasm means-to-an-end sugar rush device! And it’s a perfect trend for soda makers, like the mutual fund of empty calorie drinks. Next thing you know there will be article of kids getting food borne illnesses from filling up used dirty big-gulp cups, akin to junkies using dirty needles…