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Howard Co. Group Wants Coke To Stop ‘Marketing Sugar’

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Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She was...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Swapping sodas for healthier drinks. That’s the new ad a Howard County group is pushing to Maryland airwaves.

Christie Ileto explains why they’re asking bigwigs like Coca-Cola to dump the marketing of sugar.

A short ad with a big message Tuesday reading, “Happiness doesn’t come in a red can. Obesity does.” It shows people swapping their Coca-Cola for healthier drinks.

Howard County-based Horizon Foundation and its partners say the spot calls for the beverage giant to change the way they advertise.

“These sugary drink ads reach our youth and greatly impact their sugary drink consumption,” said Nikki Highsmith Vernick.

The foundation says it wants to work with beverage companies to change that.

“Coke makes healthier drinks but does very little to advertise them,” Highsmith Vernick said.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola began changing some of its ads pitching healthier drinks, arguing it wants to be part of the conversation to address obesity.

A spokesperson says, “We’ve seen the video and believe it’s unfair to single out just beverages. We do a lot of marketing programs around 180 low-calorie beverages like Coke Zero, Diet Coke and fruit water.”

Soda and non-soda drinkers weigh in.

“I think it’s good to try to heighten awareness,” said Susan Howard.

Studies show right now, one in four Maryland children are obese and every time a child has one additional sugary drink, doctors say it increases their chances of health risks.

“We have an obligation here to make our kids better, not worse,” said Dr. Melvin Stern.

The American Beverage Association says new ads like this aren’t the way to do it.

“You can be healthy and enjoy a soft drink as part of a balanced lifestyle. Singling out one product is clearly the wrong message to send,” it said in a statement.

The ads will air on websites, TV and local cable stations during the months of October and November. To see the full-length 90 second spot, click here.

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