In this spring’s series finale for the Emmy Award-winning cable drama on 1960s ad agency culture, Mad Men, creative executive Don Draper comes up with the concept for the “Real Thing” TV campaign for Coca-Cola after reluctantly spending some time with hippies at an ocean-side commune in California.
This scene evokes the actual spot from the tie-dye era in which hip young Americans and others, of all races, creeds, and colors, sing about the virtues of the soft drink from atop a mountain foothill. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” the youngsters harmonize, in the famous footage, created by a real life adman at McCann-Erickson.
Flash forward to today’s California, circa summer of 2015. The one-time hippies — now graying city councilmen and women of San Francisco — are not so sweet on the sugary drink. In fact, they would like to teach the world a thing or two about regulation.
The council just passed a new ordinance forcing Coke and purveyors of other soft drinks to display health advice — yes, very similar to the language on cigarette boxes — warning would-be consumers of the deadly dangers of sugar.
“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco,” is the language detailed in the ordinance passed on June 9. The law goes into effect this week unless vetoed by the mayor. This will be seen on every can of soda you purchase in San Francisco, henceforth.
San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who wrote the ordinance, commented on the pop culture images that are integral to soda marketing in a statement to the press.
“These health warnings will help provide people information they need to make informed decisions about what beverages they consume. Requiring health warnings on soda ads also makes clear that these drinks aren’t harmless — indeed, quite the opposite,” said Wiener, “and that the puppies, unicorns, and rainbows depicted in soda ads aren’t reality.”
The local commissars passed the legislation after a similar, statewide proposal failed recently. Of course, the progressives across the bay in Berkeley, Calif., beat their brethren for regulatory ruthlessness. The Berkeleyites — once hosts of the so-called “Free Speech” movement in the 1960s — passed a tax on soda pop. Yes, the people who don’t believe in sin have now imposed a “sin tax” on soft drinks.
Across the country, in New York City, regulators are not as interested in sugar as they are in salt. New York’s Health Department has proposed that all chain restaurants add a symbol “resembling a salt shaker” on menus next to food products that contain more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium. That’s about 1 teaspoon of salt.
The Luddites over at the self-styled Center for Science in the Public Interest, with a straight face, call this labeling requirement in New York City “an extremely important proposal.”
This is what passes for health policy in progressive circles these days. Whether it actually promotes the health of diners is certainly an open question, and which, basically, is a concern that seems to be beside the point for the rule-makers. This is about control. Controlling what you eat — no sugar, no sweets, no salt. Get those dastardly capitalists at Coke and Morton Salt out of your daily diet. I’m sure the regulation will get even more outlandish during the next 18 months. Look for labels saying, quite soon, ”This meal was approved by Michelle Obama” on the veggie burgers with no salt, served without fries and a coke, at the restaurant chain still known as McDonald’s, which is, not coincidentally, seeking to rebrand itself as a “progressive” burger chain.
Like the global warming crowd, which wants to control what kind of car you drive and the size of your “carbon footprint,” this group of food and nutrition collectivists can only advance if normal people refuse to resist. So go ahead and eat that salty burger with cheesy fries and finish it off with a nice, cold Coke.
Maybe, someday, science will discover, as in the old Woody Allen movie, Sleeper, that the sugar and other ingredients in chocolate are actually good for you.