Wendyl Nissen: Coke – the new cigarettes

OPINION: There is nothing quite like a Coke when you are hungover.

There, I've said it. It's out there and you now know that someone who is known for her clean eating and avoidance of chemicals and sugar in anything she eats lets herself down occasionally - about once a month when the day after the night before is a little dusty.

But it has to be Coke. Not Diet Coke or Coke Zero or the newest addition to the sugar-free Coke range – Coke No Sugar. You need the real thing. The sugar, the caffeine, the flavour.

But this latest attempt by the soft drink giant to replicate the real thing with artificial sweeteners proves to us that Coke is the new cigarette.

As the tide turned against smoking we saw the attempts by the tobacco industry to generate studies which disproved smoking was bad for you. Ditto Coke.

Then they produced "mild" and "extra mild" versions of the cigarettes in an attempt to keep the tobacco being sold but in a supposedly less harmful version. Ditto Coke.

Governments began adding tax to tobacco sales in an attempt to reduce consumption. Ditto Coke in the UK where they have introduced a sugar tax - although this has not yet happened in New Zealand.

Low-sugar versions produced by Coke, like mild cigarettes, just don't give you the same hit.

But at least it shows that they are finally taking the sugar crisis - which is killing millions of people through diabetes, obesity and heart disease - seriously.

Although not completely, as this quote from their website proves: "The fact is, we completely agree that too much sugar isn't good for anyone but we also know that cane sugar can be part of a healthy diet when it's consumed in the right amount."

I don't think many health experts would agree with "sugar" being put in the same sentence as "healthy diet."

In the late 70s when I started work as a journalist you would walk into the newsroom beneath a cloud of smoke, which hovered above our typewriters as we worked. Most journalists had a fag hanging out of the side of their mouth as they typed away, some of them sipping Coke.

Now our workspaces are clean of smoke and in not too many years they will be clear of Coke as it continues to go the way of cigarettes as no longer being cool or acceptable.

As I sip on my once-a-month hangover cure I fully expect my family to walk past waving their hands in the air in front of them and saying "For God's sake that is so disgusting".

Wendyl Nissen is an experienced magazine and television journalist, and will host RadioLIVE's Afternoon Talk, weekdays from midday until 3pm, from Monday June 26.

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