How Big Tobacco Hooked Children on Sugary Drinks

0
93

What do these ads featuring Joe Camel, Kool-Aid Man and the maniacal mascot for Hawaiian Punch have in common?

All three were created by Big Tobacco in the decades when cigarette makers, seeking to diversify their holdings, acquired some of America’s iconic beverage brands. They used their expertise in artificial flavor, coloring and marketing to heighten the products’ appeal to children.

That tobacco companies once sold sugar-sweetened drinks like Tang, Capri Sun and Kool-Aid is not exactly news. But researchers combing through a vast archive of cigarette company documents at the University of California, San Francisco stumbled on something revealing: Internal correspondence showed how tobacco executives, barred from targeting children for cigarette sales, focused their marketing prowess on young people to sell sugary beverages in ways that had not been done before.

The archive, known as the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, was created as part of a settlement between major cigarette companies and states that were seeking to recoup smoking-related health care costs. The researchers published their findings on Thursday in the medical publication BMJ.

“If a kid gets used to drinking Kool-Aid instead of water, they are always going to prefer a sugary beverage,” said Ms. Harris, who was not involved in the study. “And the advertising creates positive associations with these products in the minds of children.”

Hawaiian Punch, as in this ad from the 1950s, was originally marketed to adults. Punchy is nowhere to be found.CreditNO CREDIT

Before its atomic red, sweet bouquet came to dominate school cafeterias and birthday parties nationwide, Hawaiian Punch was sold as a cocktail mixer for adults and came in only two flavors. After purchasing the brand in 1963 from the Pacific Hawaiian Products Company, R.J. Reynolds rebranded the beverage for children, according to company documents. Executives expanded the repertoire of flavors to 16, and discontinued Amber Apple, a product favored by mothers, after taste tests with children found they preferred Red Apple.

The solution: Rebrand Tang for young adolescents.

Source