Filed Under: Soft Drinks

Anatomy of a Smear Campaign

Want to launch a national media campaign against a particular product or industry? Here’s all you’ll need: a targeted product or industry, an outlandish accusation, “innocent victims” (usually children), the “bad guys,” a parade of “expert witnesses” and, quite often, a gratuitous link to the tobacco industry.

The smear campaign has proven so effective for the food police that it has become a “cookie cutter” operation. The cover story of a recent issue of The Nation magazine provides a classic example of the campaign at work.

Target: Soft drink, coffee and tea industries.

Outlandish Accusations:

  • “Scientific research has linked caffeine to anxiety, respiratory ailments, possible bone loss and other health worries.””‘Soda barons’ have used… sly marketing ploys” to target children.
  • “Children can become dependent on caffeine.”
  • Coke and Pepsi “are pushing a drug on pre-adults, one that may have serious health consequences for a whole generation.”

Victims: “Kids,” “teens and younger kids,” “children.”

Bad Guys: “Caffeine, Inc.,” “major caffeine suppliers,” “soda barons,” “executives at Coke and Pepsi,” “soda conglomerates’ lobbyists,” “Starbucks.”

The Expert Witnesses and Their Charges:

  • The American Medical Association says caffeinated sodas are “aggressively advertised” to kids.
  • The American Dietetic Association worries “children won’t reach sufficient bone mass.” ”
  • A Johns Hopkins University professor calls caffeine a “pharmacological destabilizer.”

Link to Tobacco: “[C]affeine suppliers are following the example of another supplier of an addictive substance: the tobacco companies.”

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