Soft drink makers target U.S. youth online: study

Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:40pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

(Reuters) U.S. children and teenagers are seeing far more soda advertising than before, with blacks and Hispanics the major targets, as marketers have expanded online, according to a study released on Monday.

The report from the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity also said many fruit and energy drinks, which are popular with teenagers, have as much added sugar and as many calories as regular soda.

"Our children are being assaulted by these drinks that are high in sugar and low in nutrition," said Yale's Kelly Brownell, co-author of the report. "The companies are marketing them in highly aggressive ways."

Children's and teens' exposure to full-calorie soda ads on television doubled from 2008 to 2010, fueled by increases from Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc, the report found.

Children were exposed to 22 percent fewer ads for sugary PepsiCo Inc drinks, it said.

Black children and teens saw 80 percent to 90 percent more ads than white children, including twice as many for the 5-Hour Energy drink and Coca-Cola's vitamin water and Sprite.

Hispanic children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language television, and Hispanic teens saw 99 percent more ads.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 15 percent of children are overweight or obese. Children today are likely to have shorter life spans than their parents, which would affect their ability to work and pay taxes, while threatening to drive up healthcare costs.   Continued...