I’m often amused and despondent in equal measures by the Southend Echo with so many obvious grammatical errors, orphaned text, duplicate content, and doom and gloom. But this morning I was furious: the front page triumphantly announced the arrival of the Coca Cola Christmas Truck with a double centre-page spread, mostly of pictures of the truck and people taking selfies. This is not something to celebrate!
Let’s put this in perspective: we have an NHS that is on the verge of collapse and an obesity epidemic increasly causing health issues. Sugar plays a key role in rotting children’s teeth and making them fat. It also feeds cancer cells. (See the 2017 results of a nine-year research project here.)
So why do we allow the annual PR stunt that is the Coca-Cola Truck to visit Southend and other towns in Essex? If we really care about our children’s health, this has got to stop.
Public Health England (PHE) research discovered that most of the places the trucks plan to visit before Christmas have above-average rates of children with tooth decay or obesity. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said:
“Big-name brands touring the country at Christmas to advertise their most sugary products to children and boost sales does nothing to help families make healthy choices and wider efforts to combat childhood obesity and rotten teeth,”
“Local authorities celebrating sugary drinks in this way need to reflect on whether it’s in the best interests of the health of local children and families.”
Apart from the very evident health issues, it is very sad that a huge articulated lorry, adorned with fairy lights and in bright red Coca Cola livery, is such a massive attraction at Christmas time. A couple of years ago, we were in Southend Town Centre for the Christmas Lights Switch-on and were puzzled by a very long, snaking queue. When we enquired what it was for, we were informed people were queing to get selfies taken by the truck with the crew and for a few free (sugary) drinks. This absolutely epitomises both the commercialisation of Christmas and the ever escalating selfie culture.
But most importantly, it highlights the power of large corporate organisations that are allowed to flaunt addictive and harmful products in front of a nation that is the grip of an obesity epidemic.
Let’s start by calling on our local councils to ban these trucks. After all, since 1st April 2013, local authorities have been responsible for ‘improving the health of their local population.’ I would suggest that by allowing, and in some cases even promoting Coca Cola and similar stunt-driven trucks, they are in breach of those responsibilites!
Photograph : ID 96573486 © Andrew Bartlett | Dreamstime