For some time now, pictures of young children smoking cigarettes have been making the rounds on the internet. These are always accompanied by stinging comments from indignant adults who are shocked that these children have been exposed to something that is clearly damaging to their health. I have been one of those adults (and I still am). However, it occurred to me recently that we may need a shift in the way we see things. Some things are a lot less obvious but still have far reaching consequences.
This is a familiar sight:
The idea for this post came when I saw some children drinking sodas (or minerals as our people would say) and I wondered why we are more accepting of sodas than we are of cigarettes. Sounds like a ridiculous extrapolation? Give me a few minutes to make my case.
Why all the hullaballoo about cigarettes? If I were limited to 3 points, I would say that it is because smoking cigarettes:
- Increases ones susceptibility to Cancer, Cardiovascular disease and lots more.
- Is addictive
- Has no nutritive benefits.
Now let’s look at sodas:
- Increases ones susceptibility to diseases such as Obesity, Liver damage, tooth decay, heartburn, osteoporosis, Heart Disease, Kidney stones and chronic kidney damage (read more here)
- Can be addictive because of the caffeine content in some brands.
- Have no nutritive benefits.
Starting to look a bit similar?
Let us look at the ingredients in a bottle of Sprite that is locally available in Nigeria
- Carbonated Water
- Citric Acid
- Lime and Lemon Flavours
- Sodium Citrate
- Sodium Benzoate
The only things on the ingredient list that are close to having nutritional benefits are the carbonated water and lime/lemon flavours. However, if we look again, we realize that the water is no longer really water – it is just the medium for all these chemicals. The lime/lemon flavours are synthetic flavours brewed in a lab and not from real fruit (these flavours contain other non-nutritive chemicals that are not stated on the label). Citric Acid is not too bad though. Especially if it is really made from natural fruit.
If you are interested in finding out more about what experts in the field have to say without reading through pages and pages of scientific material, go here and read the quotations.
Alright, let’s move to something that the company does to give us the impression that the drinks are not too bad. They take an ingredient out and swap it with other ingredients. This is the case in Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. In Diet coke, sugar was swapped for Aspartame (read a blogger’s personal experience with aspartame here. Second to last paragraph) and Acesulfame-K (I invite you to google the health benefits/side effects of the chemicals listed here.)
You see that these have absolutely NOTHING in them that is beneficial to any human being. So what happens when people realize that they are literally drinking poison and stop buying these products? Soft drink companies realize that a lot of people are moving away to healthier drink s and so they try to retain their customers by introducing fruity variants depending on their market. Like these here:
These “fruity” variants have not been introduced in Nigeria…could it be because the market here has not caught on to the fact that these drinks are in fact toxic and started moving away from them? If the management at NBC (Coca-Cola) or 7-UpBottling company notice a significant dip in sales (trust me, they watch their sales figures like hawks) because people realize that they gain nothing but the risk of disease from their products, bham! we’ll get the fruity variants or something that they think will appeal to consumers. Not that I think that these fruity variants are any healthier. The w/v (or in other words concentration) of these real fruit juices could be just a splash in an ocean.
Here’s another tactic lots of companies employ: The use of the word “Natural” has always resonated with buyers so marketers of products that are less than natural and healthy always try to find a way to introduce those words into advertising campaigns. The latest advert campaign for Fanta states: “Play, it’s Natural!” Pure coincidence? I don’t think so.
So what can you do? First of all, stop feeding those drinks to your kids and dissuade other parents too. I drank my fair share of Coca-cola, Fanta, Pepsi, Mirinda, and all the rest while growing up but I also ate less processed food, breathed less polluted air and had a less chemical dependent life than is available to most children these days. We live in a world full of chemicals so you should want to reduce your child’s exposure and yours too…
You can change things with your buying power. Your naira, dollar or pound. Pepsi, 7-Up and other soft drink companies are here to make money. If they realize that people are shying away from their products, there will be some reformulations. They will do what it takes to get your money.
Also, we all need to start REALLY looking at things. Read labels, improve your knowledge on what is out there. Some things are not as obvious but they are killing us and leaving us susceptible to debilitating diseases as efficiently as the more obvious things are.