A Big Gulp of Human Fat

| Tue Sep. 1, 2009 4:04 PM EDT

We all know New York City takes a hard line against the fast food industry and its role in the obesity epidemic. Last year, the city mandated that chain eateries with more than 10 outlets in NYC would be required to display calorie information next to the price of every item, a move that other cities have been copying like the answers to a pop quiz. With one victory under its belt, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has set its sights on a new opponent: soft drinks.

On Monday, the city debuted a truly repulsive-looking $367,000 ad campaign depicting a bottle of cola being poured into a glass of human fat. Sound disgusting? Then don't click here.

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Using the same sort of graphic imagery you can expect to see on cigarette packs soon (think blackened lungs and rotting gums), the new ads equate sodas and energy/sports drinks to gobs of bloody adipose tissue. The grotesque ads will appear in the already sweltering subways, just in time for New York's Fashion Week!

The American Beverage Association complains that the adverts unfairly target their product with a bit of the old "let them eat cake" routine. Seriously—when confronted with the deleterious effect of sugary soft drinks on human health, the lobby demanded to know why the city doesn't "go after cake?"

Here's why: Unlike cake, which everyone knows is unhealthy, sipping a Coke can feel guiltless. Which it isn't. A 20 oz. bottle of Coke contains more than 250 calories, nearly twice as many as a Twinkie and roughly the same as a package of Little Debbie Snack Cakes. A 7-Eleven Double Big Gulp of regular soda contains nearly half of an adult's recommended daily caloric intake. Cake might have more fat, but that doesn't make the extra calories in soda less  fattening. Take it from me—I drank a can of Coke every morning from age 8 to 14, when I switched to Diet (still haven't kicked that habit) and abruptly dropped 10 percent of my body weight. Considering Americans drink 10 billion gallons of soda a year, cutting back couldn't hurt. Not as much as looking at this ad, anyway.