Coke, bottler launching campaign against soda tax

NEW YORK Tue Sep 29, 2009 7:27pm EDT

Bottles of Coca-Cola soft drinks are seen on a grocery store shelf in Arlington, Virginia, August 17, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

Bottles of Coca-Cola soft drinks are seen on a grocery store shelf in Arlington, Virginia, August 17, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co and its largest independent bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc, are mounting a campaign against a possible U.S. tax on soft drinks.

In addition to a print and digital ad campaign in seven key U.S. markets including Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles, the effort will include public relations, speaking engagements and education designed to emphasize to consumers the benefits of a balanced diet and lifestyle that includes exercise.

"Clearly, the threat of a soft drink tax demonstrates the need to better educate our consumers on what we're doing to be part of the solution to the obesity problem in the United States," said Coke spokeswoman Diana Garza, adding that its efforts to fight obesity are ongoing.

There have been increasingly vocal calls for taxes on sugary drinks and junk food to help fight the problem of obesity in the United States.

News of Coke's campaign was first reported on the website of the company's hometown newspaper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, citing an interview with Coke Enterprises' chief executive, John Brock.

The paper said the penny-per-ounce tax that has been suggested would increase the cost of a 12-pack of soda by $1.44, which Brock called "mind-boggling."

"The Coca-Cola Company and our bottlers believe the solution to obesity does not lie in attacking one product or by taxing middle-income Americans," Garza said.

Since Congress will ultimately decide whether a tax is imposed, the newspaper said the campaign is expected to include political publications and websites in Washington.

A strongly worded report on child obesity released earlier this month recommended that state and local governments tax junk food and soft drinks, while the American Heart Association said people should limit their sugar intake and said soft drinks were the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Matthew Lewis, Gary Hill)

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