Yet minority communities have historically been stalwart allies of large soda-makers, Coca-Cola included. As New York University professor Marion Nestle details in her book “Soda Politics,” those companies have been major funders of minority advocacy groups, including the NAACP, since the 1950s — a strategy initially intended to expose soda to new demographics.
Advocacy groups representing people of color, including local chapters of the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation, have since become instrumental in beating back soda taxes in places like New York; Richmond, California; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. When the American Beverage Association sued to prevent the implementation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s, D, soda tax in early 2013, both the NAACP and Hispanic Federation filed a brief in support of it.
Lamar said he was grateful that companies like Coca-Cola had supported these organizations but that their philanthropy did not “negate the science or the fact that their marketing is mendacious.”
“This campaign of deception has also been bestowed on the leadership of our major Latino and black organizations,” Coates said. “The leaders of many of these organizations, like the average lay person, is just not aware of the science.”
That represents a shift that Nestle calls “highly significant.”
“In the past, this community has supported the soda industry in opposing public health measures even though the health impact of sugary drinks is higher in that community,” the professor told The Post. “It is highly significant that this community is joining the CSPI lawsuit. It should put the soda industry on notice that it needs to stop targeting African-Americans who are at high risk of chronic diseases encouraged by sugary drink consumption.”
But it’s unclear whether the suit will ultimately have more than a glancing impact on the beverage industry. Coke and the American Beverage Association do not need to respond to the complaint until September. At that point Maia Kats — the litigation director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and one of the lawyers on the case — said she believes they will push for dismissal.
In the meantime, Lamar and Coates say, they’ll continue visiting hospitals, and overseeing funerals, for members of their churches suffering from obesity-related illnesses.
“I am disgusted by the number of hospital visits I make,” Lamar said. “It just adds to the injustices all around us.”
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