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No, Diet Coke Is Not Encouraging Drug Abuse

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:49 EDT
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If only he’d heeded our warnings to avoid caffeinated beverages. 

You can always tell the difference between genuine concerns about drug use and anti-drug hysteria by how upset someone is at the possibility that someone, somewhere, might feel pleasure at something other than the righteous feeling you get when you eat a wholesome breakfast. Lindy West reports that there’s a major league fit being thrown because Diet Coke has an ad that implies, oh my god, that people might use their product to feel good. And we all know where that leads: Dancing, perhaps masturbation upwards of once a month.

Here is the ad in question:

Yep, a bunch of people who are about to perform and, like the wretched junkies they are, reaching for that unholy Diet Coke, which we all know is just a delivery system for the demon caffeine.

The full-blown moral panic is on display at AdWeek. “Is Diet Coke Dabbling in Drug References in Its Ads?” asks a not-even-remotely hysterical headline.

What has Diet Coke been snorting?

In the way the tagline, “You’re on,” and logo are positioned, the brand’s new ads seem to refer to drug use—appearing to spell out the phrase “You’re on coke.”

Everyone, to rehab!

A commercial shows various people downing the product to get psyched up before speeches and performances. Taylor Swift takes a—how shall I put this?—hit backstage, then says, “Great. Let’s go.” Hey, that’s nothing like drugs at all. In The New York Times, a Coca-Cola exec says the ads show how the drink provides “uplift for those moments when you really need to be on.” Hey, that’s nothing like drugs at all.

You know what they say: Diet Coke is a direct gateway to the hard stuff. One day, you’re drinking a Diet Coke for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up and, next thing you know, you’re sucking cock in an alleyway for hits of  PCP. Or reefer. I can’t remember which.

Caffeine is a fascinating drug, because it works as an excellent measure to distinguish between genuine concern about the health hazards of various drugs and prudish moral panic at the possibility that someone, somewhere might be enjoying themselves. Various attempts have been made to “prove” that drinking coffee is a secret killer, and all these attempts have failed, but still the dream never dies. Diet Coke, for whatever reason, is a particularly favorite target of people who have it in their heads that all self-directed chemical manipulation, no matter how benign, is a pathway to hell.

I know this makes me a moral threat to the fabric of America, but I’m just going to say it: If you’re dragging a little and need to wake up, feel free to drink a Diet Coke. Most “users” of the product drink it because it offers an extremely mild pick-me-up, so it makes sense that Coca-Cola would highlight this aspect in its advertisements. Yes, it feels good. God forbid people ever feel good.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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