Coca-Cola has gone too far. Just two weeks ago, Coca-Cola made a big show of "caring" about our country's obesity epidemic, releasing an ad that declared, "We are concerned, we care and we are all in this together." The next week, they announce their successful seduction of our children's favorite music star, Taylor Swift, signing her up to promote Diet Coke. Yup, the soda that recent research links to depression and new studies warn can actually make you hungrier. Unabashedly aiming right for the youth market that should not be drinking it, Diet Coke is a beverage with artificial coloring and other chemicals that have links to ADHD, and a drink with caffeine! Tweens on caffeine? Is this right? Don't be fooled into thinking that the "diet" label is healthier just because the sugar is replaced by artificial sweeteners. Studies show that those manmade chemicals can predispose us to becoming overweight (how ironic!), developing diabetes and possibly cancer. Taylor may not be aware of the dangers of Diet Coke, but I promise you, the Coca-Cola Corporation is. And other adults in her world, like her managers and lawyers. The Coca-Cola Corporation also knows very well that if they hook kids early in life to Coke, or any other of their many artificial or natural sugary drinks, they are likely to be customers for life. A shortened life, of course, but hey that's business. Children have no choice but to trust grownups. But too many grownups are doing a really lousy job protecting them. Why do we continue to allow the soda and junk food industry to exploit our kids? Our celebrities are either disconnected or oblivious to how sick their fans are becoming but we are all to blame -- Coke for preying on kids, parents for not demanding a stop to marketing aimed at their kids, our government for not regulating, our celebrities for collaborating with the entertainment industry in its push to embed the products and boost sales. The only innocent ones here are the kids. Maybe part of the problem is we haven't noticed the extent to which the fast food and soda industry has permeated our children's worlds. Junk marketing, advertising and promotions have invaded everywhere our kids go, their mobile phones, their apps, their videogames, television shows, the basketball hoop at their school, the score board, enticing them with contests and access to their favorite soda-drinking stars. Accessibility to the beverage itself, no problem, its in your fridge, at your corner store, in vending machines at school, the local Y, your park or campus, gas station, mall, in every restaurant and snack bar. The average American child sees some 30,000 ads a year for these unhealthy items. We know, and so do the companies, that kids don't understand the difference between commercials and the program till at least the age of eight. By then hey, they can already be diet coke drinkers! Having problems sleeping? Is your son or daughter too hyper, can't focus? We are seriously letting our kids down. I love Taylor Swift. I discovered her way before my kids did, the moment I heard her crooning to Tim McGraw. Taylor is hardly more than a kid herself, barely out of her teens. She shouldn't be regularly drinking Diet Coke either, a beverage many consider addictive. When she holds that coke can in her hand, and smiles, and says it's her "second love," millions of kids smile with her. I can easily see young girls in their bedrooms all over America practicing her songs in their mirror, holding the pretend microphone/hairbrush in one hand and a can of Diet Coke in the other. Yes, parents are responsible, but sometimes they aren't. It's a lot of mind-altering advertising to be up against. Many buy and drink it themselves. Let's be truthful, advertising works, that's why the food industry spends billions of dollars targeting our young ones. Kids are the innocent victims here. No one wants to be overweight, feel crappy, or be bullied in school. Kids don't understand the potential dangers of caramel coloring and artificial sweeteners. Or why drinking a Diet Coke isn't going to help them lose weight or curb their growing appetite for sugar. Many adults don't understand this either.
We have to start looking at what is happening here with open eyes. It is a war against our children. Innocent kids whose bodies and minds are still developing pitted against the highest paid ad executives and creative minds in the business funded by billion dollar companies whose main goal is to double sales. Double the amount of soda our kids are already drinking, diet or regular. No child left behind, not drinking soda. If that weren't the goal why would they hire the adored and talented young star Taylor Swift? Do we stand by and do nothing? Diet Coke hooks kids on to the taste of sweet. Taylor is sweet enough without that. And so are her fans.