The Candy Man and The Soda Papa: Marketing Candy and Drinks like Drugs to Teens


We’ve told children to “just say no” to drugs for decades. But how potent is our message when the drug dealers come in the form of The Candy Man or The Soda Papa?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Energy Drink “Blow” or “I Love Blow” which, packaged in vial form along with a fake credit card and mirror, is marketed to look and sound like cocaine. Parents and educators just like you are outraged. If you don’t know about it yet, here’s the gory story:

The firm which manufactures the substance has defended it to the end but they recently were slapped with a warning letter of violation from the FDA. Which says;

Your product, Blow, is a drug, as defined by Section 201(g)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), 21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1), because it is intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals…Your sale of Blow without an approved application violates these provisions of the Act.” The whole letter is here.

Of course, this substance is not the only one getting parents up in arms. In December 2007, The Hershey Co. were criticized for creating mint packets (Ice Breakers) that were in the spitting image of the small bags used to sell illegal drugs like heroin, crack and cocaine. Police felt that it “glorified the drug trade.” And who could forget the energy drink “Cocaine” that was pulled from store shelves in May of 2007 after it received a letter from the FDA citing problems similar to those they spelled out to the makers of “Blow.”

Is this “fun way” to market candy and energy drinks” bringing our children one step closer to the drug world? If they become comfortable with seeing vials and packets in everyday marketing, might they be more easily swayed to try the “real stuff?”

And let’s not forget to mention, that many of these drinks are packed with caffeine (an actual drug children shouldn’t be ingesting!)!

Too much caffeine can cause:

  • headaches
  • jitteriness and nervousness
  • upset stomach
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure

Let’s get a comparison:

Espresso 77 mg

Brewed Coffee 107.5

Mountain Dew Game Fuel 120 mg

Starbucks Double Shot 130 mg

Rockstar Energy Cola 150 mg

Blow Energy Drink 240 mg

Cocaine (energy drink) 280 mg

And how about those wonderful candies for kids? My colleague, Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth, gives us the lowdown from “Crackheads” to “Buzz Bites.”

Manufacturers believe this shameless marketing isn’t a big deal and couldn’t possibly have an influence on children. Marketing caffeine to children? Packaging candy and energy drinks with a illegal drug motif?

On our quest to raising responsible, healthy children, we may need to teach the Candy Man and The Soda Papa a little character.



2 Responses

  1. Hi Dr. Robyn, yep, Shaping Youth reported on the other two as well, I’ll be adding your link in our comments section for folks to find, as we wrote above all of these products from a ‘what were they thinking’ perspective of toxic profiteering at the expense of kids’ health and well-being.

    Industry gets short-sighted when it comes to marketing substance abuse messages under the guise of ‘cheeky humor’…they do the same thing with alcopops and tobacco in ‘hook ’em while they’re young’ mode…sigh. (so we can clean up the mess in the rehab/health care system later? ugh.)

    Here are adjunct articles to the above products on Shaping Youth with more links/details/analysis:

    Shock Schlock: Industry Tactics Clueless About Blowback to Kids:

    Corporate Blunders Are A Dime (Bag) A Dozen: (Hershey’s IceBreakers)

    And Cocaine in a Can:

    And yes, my e-mail is FINALLY (as of the weekend!) BACK! Just wading through my backlog and will ping you soon…Looking forward, — Amy

  2. Did you hear about Kabang Energy Candy. Kabang Energy Candy is the fun and exciting candy that kids crave! Approved by moms everywhere, Kabang Energy Candy contains 100% of the daily required allowance of Vitamins B6, B12, C plus Ginseng and has “NO CAFFIENE”

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