A GIANT Coca Cola truck handing out free fizzy drinks at Christmas is coming to Coventry – sparking concerns about public health and obesity among residents and city officials.
Coventry’s public health leaders told the Observer they fear it will bring unwanted encouragement for drinking sugary fizzy drinks.
It has become a national issue. Liberal Democrat politicians in Liverpool have called on the truck to be banned for contributing to the ‘obesity epidemic’, while others have condemned the rampant commercialising of a religious holiday.
Fizzy-drink consumption is one of the primary causes of obesity in the UK.
Council statistics on obesity in Coventry for recent years show 62 per cent of adults have excess weight and officials say it is rising every year.
It is increasingly a problem for children. Only two-thirds of 10 and 11-year-olds in Coventry were a healthy weight, according to latest statistics.
More than one in five reception children have excess weight in Coventry, higher than the national level of 21.9 per cent.
Fizzy drinks are also associated with a rise in type 2 diabetes, a condition that can lead to further issues such as heart disease.
The Observer spoke to the council’s shadow cabinet minister for public health who described the Coca Cola Truck visiting Coventry as a “double-edged sword”.
Councillor Marcus Lapsa said: “Anything that puts the spotlight on Coventry is good, but obviously from the health perspective we are concerned about fizzy drinks.
“We want to be pro-choice and we want to provide the education to say to parents ‘try to stay away’.”
He praised the ‘sugar tax’, brought in by the government in a bid to reduce availability of cut-prize fizzy drinks.
He said it also worked as an ‘awareness campaign’, and that if something had not been done nationally, there would be more problems down the line.
Councillor Kamran Caan, Coventry City Council cabinet member for public health, said in a statement to us: “As the councillor responsible for public health, I’m always reminding people about making lifestyle choices to help better health and wellbeing.
“We’re increasing our work around childhood obesity and currently working on a joint initiative with education colleagues to work with schools along with other key players like parents to tackle this issue.”
It seems Coventry residents are divided about the benefits of the Coca Cola truck adding Coventry to its route.
A disgruntled Coventry public health practitioner and researcher, Angela Hands tweeted: “I don’t think this is a good thing! If Liverpool are talking about banning the truck for public health reasons why aren’t Coventry? #obesity”
Meanwhile, another expressed their excitement, tweeting: “At last! The Coca Cola truck is coming back to Coventry! I don’t care how old I am, I’ll be there!”
The 13-ton truck, as well as handing out free cans of Coca Cola, also provides a festive treat with bright lights and selfie opportunities.
The last time it visited Coventry was in 2014 , parking in a Walsgrave Asda Supermarket.
This year it will be parked in Broadgate, on Monday December 11, from 11am to 7pm.