Coca-Cola truck should be banned from Eastbourne, say health experts

The Coca-Cola truck in Eastbourne in December
The Coca-Cola truck in Eastbourne in December

The Coca-Cola truck that has visited Eastbourne at Christmas for the last two years should be banned, according to leading health experts.

John Ashton CBE, former president of the national Faculty of Public Health, and Robin Ireland, director of charity Food Active, have said the company hijacks Christmas and sends the wrong message to children in a time when many are struggling with obesity and tooth decay.

Their views, written in a piece for the British Medical Journal, are also supported by a number of health experts in an open letter – including current president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor John Middleton.

In the tour, children can be given a free traditional Coca-Cola – a single can of which, according to the company’s website, contains seven teaspoons of sugar.

Mr Ashton and Mr Ireland said in the piece, “The truck is just the latest of Coca-Cola’s campaigns to become a holiday brand and, indeed, to help brand Santa Claus himself.

“Should this form of advertising and marketing be banned, given the growing evidence of the effect that marketing of unhealthy food and drink has on children?

“We believe it should and will continue to push for national action from organisations such as Public Health England to stop similar campaigns next Christmas.”

Meanwhile the open letter, signed by 108 health experts, said, “We can celebrate without allowing Coca-Cola to hijack Christmas by bringing false gifts of bad teeth and weight problems to our children.”

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Great Britain said, “We had a really positive response from consumers to last year’s tour. People could enjoy a small 150ml can of Coca-Cola Classic or one of our two no-sugar options - Diet Coke or Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

“We operate the tour in line with our responsible marketing policy and we do not provide drinks to under-12s unless their parent or guardian is present and happy for us to do so.

“It is difficult to understand why they think banning the Coca-Cola Christmas truck will improve public health in the region.

“The fact is, as Government data shows, sugar intake from soft drinks by both children and teenagers continues to decline and consumption of full-sugar soft drinks in general has fallen by 44 per cent since 2004.

“We will continue to take actions to help people to reduce the sugar they consume from our range of drinks, but the evidence suggests the current focus on sugar and soft drinks alone will not address the problem.”