A weak economy.  Trouble in the Middle East.  Rising gas prices.  In some ways, 2012 is just like the early 1990's.  Need one more item to add to that list of comparisons?  Public health officials say that soda manufacturers - just like their cigarette-making cousins in the 1990's - are employing marketing tactics to sway public opinions on their products.

Recent calls to ban large-sized sodas is just the tip of the iceberg.  Nutritionists cite the "empty calories" and massive sugar levels that soda packs.  In some ways, it's not unlike the second-wave of news about the dangers of smoking.

Now public health advocates are arguing that when it comes to marketing strategies, soda is the new tobacco. But although there are some parallels, experts say comparing the food and tobacco industries can be like comparing apples to oranges…or cigarettes.

In an article published today in the journal PLoS, researchers argue that soda companies are using clever marketing strategies to distract consumers and regulators from the fact that their products have been implicated in rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

By using corporate social responsibility campaigns, the authors claim that soda companies, like tobacco companies before them, are able to frame themselves as good global citizens, not the companies that make sugary drinks that fuel an obesity epidemic.

The soda industry hopes that the advertising and marketing dollars they're spending will get their side of the story heard.  Or - at the very least, soften  the blow of nutritional facts.

The authors argue that the campaign is the company's attempt to deflect blame for obesity away from their products and onto consumers, who should be exercising away the calories they get from sugary drinks.

"Of course there's nothing wrong with funding playgrounds, but they're doing it to distract people, which is exactly what is not needed in the middle of a health crisis," [Andrew] Cheyne, [a media researcher]  said.

So what does it mean for you?  Expect to see a lot of messages directed at you from various sources  - from both camps.  Bottom line, consumers need to be the ultimate gate-keeper when it comes to theri body.



More From KOOL 101.7