Glass of cola with iceA new public awareness campaign in Maryland is encouraging soft drink makers such as The Coca-Cola Company to more heavily promote its healthier options instead of sugary beverages. The campaign is one of the latest efforts around the world to curb consumption of sugary drinks amid rising rates of diabetes and obesity.

The Howard County Unsweetened campaign, featuring a “Burp Better” video on YouTube, is being promoted by The Horizon Foundation of Baltimore to promote healthier lifestyles in the county located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The foundation’s campaign website includes a search tool to help people find unsweetened drinks.

The campaign comes as many states and other countries work to address diabetes and obesity—two risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

In New York City, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeking to limit the size of sugary drinks. The soft-drink ban is currently under review by the state’s highest court of appeals. Lawmakers in Mexico are debating legislation that would tax soda and other sugary drinks.

A telephone message and an email seeking comment from The Coca-Cola Company were not immediately returned. In January, the company launched a new global advertising campaign it said would “reinforce its efforts to work together with American communities, business and government leaders to find meaningful solutions to the complex challenge of obesity.”

Research from the American Heart Association shows that making the switch from unhealthy to healthy drinks cuts calories and improves health. According to the American Heart Association, sugary beverages are the No.  1 source of added sugars in the American diet.  One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories and eight teaspoons of sugar.

Studies suggest that a 10 percent price increase could decrease consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages by between 8 and 10 percent. Other research shows a 1 cent per ounce tax on a 20 ounce bottle could bring in $13.2 billion in tax revenue for obesity prevention.

Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports communities working to decrease marketing of unhealthy foods to children as well as improving access to healthy drinks.

Photo courtesy Simon Cousins,