Health officials: Just say no to soda

Caitlin Yoshiko Buysse | 7/20/2010, 7:39 p.m.

To further encourage Americans to drink their beverages, the industry has increased their container sizes, and provides economic incentives. In the 1950s, Coca-Cola’s standard serving size was 6.5 ounces. Today, the 12-ounce can is the norm — with 20-ounce bottles and the 64-ounce “Double Gulp” becoming more common.

These larger servings are also significantly cheaper in cost per ounce than smaller servings are. CSPI reports that a 16-ounce “small” soda at McDonald’s costs about $1.05 (6.5 cents per ounce), while a large, twice its size, costs only about $1.57 (4.9 cents per ounce).

 The soft drink industry also spends more than $700 million annually on television, magazine and other media advertising. But this number is dwarfed by the amount spent on other forms of marketing, like product placement in movies and television shows and school sponsorships. In 2004, the Coca-Cola Company alone spent $2.2 billion on promotions worldwide.

And Americans have responded. CSPI notes that Americans annually spend $66 billion on soda — $850 per household. Over $4 billion of this total was purchased through food stamps, according to a new editorial in the American Journal of Public Health.

But the Boston Public Health Commission is fighting back. Against the barrage of soda advertising, the soda-free campaign has launched television and radio advertisements highlighting the negative consequences of drinking soda, and is using educational materials to reach out directly to people at summer camps, community health fairs and farmers’ markets.

Dr. Nancy Norman believes these small efforts will lead to big changes. “Hopefully, the pledge they take this summer will turn into a lifestyle choice.”

For more information about the Soda-Free Summer Challenge, visit www.bphc.org or www.facebook.com/HealthyBoston.