The problem with pop culture
In 2012, Beyonce signed a $50 million deal with Pepsi to create a partnership that included advertising, commercials and PepsiCo’s funding of Beyonce’s creative projects. Unless you have been living in a blackout, you have probably seen the advertisements. This year’s Super Bowl halftime show, starring Beyonce, was sponsored by Pepsi. Besides Beyonce, Pepsi has been bombarding the airwaves with other celebrity endorsements that include tween sensation One Direction. The nature of celebrity means that these artists have a powerful influence over the millions of people who buy their albums. These partnerships are a public health risk because celebrities use their image to represent products that are addictive and harmful.
The irony is that Beyonce has been a part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign since 2011. The First Lady’s campaign is about solving the epidemic of childhood obesity in our country. According to the Let’s Move website, over the past three decades childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. In 2010, a Mayo Clinic article emphasized the fact that the average 12-ounce soda has nine teaspoons of sugar. Adults and children who regularly drink beverages high in sugar tend to have a higher caloric intake and experience weight gain. As weight increases, so does your risk of developing health problems such as Type 2 diabetes.
So why do we allow sodas and sugary drinks to be glorified by today’s pop stars and celebrities? In the 1950s and ’60s, tobacco advertising included sponsorship of television shows such as “The Flintstones” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” We do not see this on our Saturday morning cartoons anymore. Celebrity endorsers of tobacco products included Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle and movie star Bob Hope. The aim of tobacco advertisements was to target youth, and this is mimicked by today’s soft drink campaigns with Beyonce endorsing Pepsi and Taylor Swift endorsing Diet Coke.
Back in 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that looked at multiple studies about soda, sugary drinks and health consequences. One study saw that weight gain was more dramatic for soft drinks compared with drinks such as fruit juices, and women with a higher intake of soft drinks tended to have a higher intake of total calories and a dietary pattern that leads to increased risks of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The health risks of tobacco use have been recited to us over and over again, and the once widespread advertising and celebrity endorsement of cigarettes has dropped dramatically to reflect this newfound health consciousness.
Perhaps we should start paying more attention to the danger of our country’s excessive consumption of soda and sugary drinks. Washington University is a smoke-free campus. Maybe we ought to consider being a soda-free campus. As a smoke-free campus, Wash. U. demonstrated a value in our health. To continue fostering a healthy community, we should think about ridding our campus of another harmful substance.