Cocaine: Snort it, Guzzle it, Promote it
November 8, 2006
Use of illegal and
"recreational" drugs is truly becoming an epidemic that has reached crisis
proportions. We've spent millions of tax dollars attempting to educate North
American societies about the consequences of using these substances, and then in
a moment, all of that proactive training is undone by a celebrity's thoughtless
actions, a movie's "try to be cool" script, or a drink company that's desperate
to make a buck.
Can you find
cocaine at your local supermarket? Figuratively, yes... literally, no.
A beverage company
in Nevada is thrilled with the press they have received after the launch of
their latest "energy" drink, which they call "Cocaine." Packaged in a bright red
can, the provocative name has drawn gobs of media attention with radio morning
show hosts goading police by setting up lemonade-style stands selling the stuff
and Rosie O'Donnell doing a way-too-long comedy stint after she attempts to
snort the fizzy liquid on The View.
The drink's website
links to these and every other snippet (I wonder if I will qualify?) of positive
or negative buzz generated by the drink's controversial name. Possibly the most
scathing rebuke (which has also contributed to the free advertising party) came
from Joseph Califano, Jr., Chairman and President of The National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and Former U.S. Secretary
Said Califano on
September 18, 2006: [http://www.casacolumbia.org/absolutenm/templates/ChairmanStatements.aspx?articleid=457&zoneid=31]
"Redux Beverages should be ashamed of creating and marketing an insidious
product entitled 'Cocaine Energy Drink – The Legal Alternative.' The creation
and pushing of a beverage, which, Redux claims, 'numbs the throat to add an oral
sensation much like cocaine does,' is disgraceful. It is clearly aimed at
children and teen 'partygoers.' In this country alone, more than one million
Americans use cocaine at least weekly and putting a product on the market that
glamorizes an illegal and addictive drug like cocaine is irresponsible and
reprehensible. I call on all retailers, restaurants, bars and coffee shops to
refuse to sell this disgusting product."
Of course, the
drink doesn't actually contain cocaine, but it does have a load of caffeine --
which the company is quick to point out is much higher than any of their
competitors. Touted as "the legal alternative," the marketers have the audacity
to promote the healthy benefits of their concoction, the most ironic being their
concern over high fructose corn syrup found in other drinks, which they don't
put in Cocaine because "HFCS is not good for you." "Try to avoid drinks and food
with HFCS," advises the drink's web site.
And they think a
drink with about eight times the caffeine of a can of Coca-Cola isn't going to
do you any harm?
I couldn't help but
connect the publicity this drink was creating with comments made by Columbia's
Vice-President, Francisco Santos, who was recently in London to launch a
campaign he calls "the cocaine curse."
His remarks were
focused at supermodel Kate Moss, and how little consequence she faced after a
newspaper photographer snapped her allegedly taking cocaine. While she initially
lost some modeling jobs, she avoided any criminal charges. After a month of
rehab, she has since recovered her career with what BBC news describes as "a
number of lucrative contracts" and a designing position for a major London
Quoting the same
BBC article, Mr. Santos said, "To me it's baffling, that somebody who helps
cause so much pain in Colombia is doing better than ever and winning more
contracts than ever." (A few days after this comment, Moss was named Britain's
"Model of the Year.") He also advised Europeans that, "...that line of coke they
snort is tainted in blood."
I agree with Mr.
Santos, and extend the thought even further: Why do we continue to promote and
create movies and television shows that laugh at cocaine and other drug use? Why
does the film industry continue to make mainstream movies that glamorize illegal
drugs -- even in the PG-13 rating category? (Accepted, which releases to
DVD on November 14, 2006, is the most recent that immediately comes to mind.
It's rated PG-13 and aimed squarely at teens and twenties.) Why do media
companies so willingly accept advertising for and promote products like the
Cocaine energy drink?
The irony is
heightened further with a November 4, 2006 story in the Washington Post [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/03/AR2006110301383.html]
that says radio stations in Columbia are refusing to play songs written by their
own country's musical artists that glamorize drug trafficking and violence.
Radio stations see these "corridos prohibidos" or prohibited ballads as
inappropriate for their audiences.
interesting that struggling broadcasters in Columbia can make this sacrifice,
yet we cannot have our domestic media come to the same conclusion.
Like many parents,
I too suffer from the belief that my kids will never become involved in drugs.
So far, they haven't, but I'd venture to guess they have seen a movie or
television show that portrays the use of these substances in a way that doesn't
include negative consequences. And until everyone understands how serious this
topic is, I'm convinced drug use in schools and the lives of young people and
adults is only going to increase. We are destroying our own countries, as well
as contributing to the destruction of fragile democracies in drug producing
countries like Columbia.
The next time your
kids are laughing at media scenarios involving drug use, take a moment to help
them recognize the cost of continuing this very serious "joke."
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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