Online Program

Live for now: Teens, soda marketing and consumer protection law

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Richard A. Daynard, JD, PhD, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
Cara Wilking, JD, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
INTRODUCTION: Adolescents have high rates of obesity and are heavily targeted with sugary drink marketing. This study analyzed soda marketing through the lens of teen psychological development and consumer protection law principles to identify legal approaches to protect adolescents from soda marketing.

METHODS: Consumer protection actions involving adolescents were identified. Two lines of cases challenging alcohol and tobacco marketing to minors were selected for analysis. Legal findings were applied to a current teen-focused soda marketing campaign.

RESULTS: Marketing focused on fun, fantasy and peer acceptance associated with the use of a product as opposed to factual characteristics of a product poses a unique legal challenge. Cases alleging that alcohol marketing deceptively misrepresented alcohol to teens by portraying drinking in a positive light were all dismissed. Courts were hostile to the notion that teens could be deceived by such marketing. In contrast, tobacco marketing to minors was found to be an unfair trade practice. Young consumers' undeveloped decision-making capabilities featured prominently in the analysis. A current teen-oriented full sugar soda marketing campaign with the tagline “Live for Now” mirrors the tactics used to market alcohol and tobacco. Legal standards for unfairness are more suited to address soda marketing to teens.

DISCUSSION: Campaigns for sugary drinks targeting teens pose the risk that, like an infamous cigarette campaign 25 years earlier, they will neutralize teenagers' health concerns, reverse the decline in soda consumption, and thus endanger the public health. Consumer protection actions may prove to be an important public health strategy.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe characteristic teen decision-making and consumer protection law principles. Analyze prior efforts to challenge the marketing of alcohol and cigarettes to adolescents using consumer protection law. Analyze the potential to use consumer protection law to protect adolescents from aggressive marketing of sugary drinks.

Keyword(s): Marketing, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an attorney with expertise in consumer protection law and co-authored the study. Among my interests has been the use of state consumer protection laws to protect vulnerable consumers like children and teens.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.