With sugary beverage taxes (back) on the ballot in San Francisco and Oakland, "Big Soda" needs a hero. It may have just the opposite in Sammy Soda, a satirical mascot known to pop up at political events in a soda can suit that reads "diabetes" in Coca-Cola's signature font.
On Sammy's Twitter account, he offers tongue-in-corroded-cheek support for "Big Soda" as @SammyTheSoda, where he identifies as a "SpokesCup for Big Soda. Fan of Obesity, Diabetes, Cavities, & Big Gulps of Sugar for Kids."
Here to tell everyone that Big Soda cares & knows more about kids and health than doctors and children's advocates! pic.twitter.com/mLWVb06fCr— Sammy Soda (@SammyTheSoda) September 2, 2016
Sammy wrote that he was happy to speak with SFist because he needed "help getting the word out, so people believe my lie that soda taxes are actually grocery taxes, despite what facts and courts say." There, the pseudo-soda pusher is referring to a political maneuver to call the tax, which only directly affects the sale of sugary drinks, a "grocery" tax, an argument based on the assumption that grocery stores will have to make up for lost sales on soda with increased prices across the board.
The Chronicle noted the fake proponent for sugary drinks in passing last week, and Sammy himself spoke to SFist on the phone this morning. "I'm calling you from a bath in a giant vat of sugar and hundred dollar bills," he said, chuckling. "Should I have a voice, like, hacking away through rotten teeth?" he added, thinking through his character while never quite breaking it.
All these TV cameras on Docs, Mayors & experts instead of me? What do they know about kids & health? Trust Big Soda! pic.twitter.com/jqslTzRJo1— Sammy Soda (@SammyTheSoda) September 2, 2016
In typical corporate shill fashion, Sammy — or Sammy's creator — refused to reveal his identity and motives. Instead, he bemoaned that "health advocates don't have any sympathy for my need to make profits."
Sammy's main targets are two: San Francisco Proposition V and Oakland Measure HH. According to the text of the former initiative, "As recently as 2010, nearly a third of children and adolescents in San Francisco were obese or overweight; and in San Francisco, 46.4% of adults are obese or overweight, including 61.7% of Hispanics and 51.3% of African Americans. Nationally, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years; in 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Every additional sugary beverage consumed daily can increase a child's risk for obesity by 60%; and one or two sugary beverages per day increases the risk of Type II diabetes by 26%."
They call oil "black gold," cigarettes "cancer sticks," and me "the #1 cause of obesity leading to chronic health problems." Catchy, no?— Sammy Soda (@SammyTheSoda) September 14, 2016
"There have been a dozen pieces of mail so far," Sammy says. "You can thank me for that. You know, I'm just trying to completely overwhelm the facts and the courts with cash."
Hell, it's a tactic that's worked for the industry time and time again. In 2014, Big Soda spent $10 million to successfully shoot down San Francisco's previously proposed sugary drinks tax, and this time around it reserved $9 million in Bay Area TV spots according to the Chronicle. Meanwhile, a recent UCSF Study revealed 1960s research by Harvard scientists paid for by trade groups and published by medical journals "successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in [coronary heart disease]."