Junk Food Branding Hits the Drug Dealing World: A Reprise

meth.jpgPop Tarts. Pop Rocks. Strawberry Quick. Targeting kids is working so well for the junk food giants, the creeps-n-criminals are stealing the sugary-flavored branding strategy to recruit new customers and increase market share.

Not here to ramp up hysteria…the entire concept of marketing drugs to children will do that alone. But we need to discuss this, put it in context, and make sure we don’t get caught up in overblown media hype, missing a much bigger picture in terms of teen targeting implications.

What started as Sacramento news and spread from west to midwest (plus my home state of Hawaii) is now being internet e-blasted to parents with truthful school warnings and news videos that drug dealers are targeting teens with strawberry and cola flavored methamphetamine to “hook ‘em early” on illegal drugs. (old news from awhile back gone viral, actually)

Though teen drug use is down, (with three exceptions) the DOJ details a full threat assessment here, and meth specifically, here.

Granted, the fruity cocaine scene hit the Hollywood tabloids prior (as this blogger, Lela Davidson reminds us) BUT the Madison Avenue meets urban lowlife element adds a nefarious element. When age compression marketing tactics and junk food appeal are used to target kids for addiction, the branding trend toward tweens and teens is one to watch. Sound familiar? It should. Corporate giants spend mega-millions on advertising to seed a similar strategy.

Alcopops. Pink cigarettes. Jolt-n-crash energy drinks. Caffeine shots. Candy-flavored meth? The end goal is the same, whether it’s nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or methamphetamine…the marketer’s aim is to hook ‘em on a habit while kids’ bodies are most susceptible.

This article grounded the hype with reminders of the Halloween hoopla a couple years back:

“As in previous warnings about illegal drugs that resemble candy, (heroin-laced lollipops and Blue Star LSD tatoos) the suggestion that flavored meth poses a direct threat to very young children is probably overblown. Sure, it’s conceivable that strawberry meth could fall into the hands of a toddler who might mistake it for Pop Rocks and ingest it, but the far greater likelihood is that it will prove captivating — and therefore dangerous — to the very age group for which it is intended, teenagers.”

Gee, I feel so much better now. (argh.)

Fox News, CBS, science/health news, and the DEA will no doubt have a yapfest for quite awhile, but I’ll betcha no one makes the correlation to big industry agenda…It’s much easier to demonize drug dealers instilling fear of an ‘evil, scary world’ sans any crossover accountability from our corporate mega mogul pals.

Countless teen brain articles have shown teen bodies are physically more receptive to addiction and the very nature of these chemicals going into kids’ systems really IS different than it is for adults.

No one seems to give a rip (or even know about) the chemical complications, or addictive ease of targeting teens, they just chalk up wild child behavior to ‘kids will be kids’ or ‘this is a testing/teen phase’ and the corporations get off scott free.

Bogus! Don’t ‘cha think they know this? Those jolts, highs, and amped up boosts/percentages (as the Harvard nicotine study mentioned) are not there just for drill.

There’s an insidious link of monetary gain that seems to be going unnoticed, and nutritionists might even apply the science to brain chemistry and cravings for junk food. I’ll refrain from going that far, and stay with quantifiable research on addictive drugs, but for the record, just because an addictive product is legal vs. illegal, teen target marketing for pattern-setting behaviors is no less heinous to me.

The ethical implications of lining corporate coffers on the backs of kids puts me in a parental tizzy…especially when it comes to alcohol and tobacco tactics. After all, there’s a REASON there’s an age limit on those products.

Substance abuse habits can be solidly set early on making rehab and physical withdrawal all the more difficult.

Am I saying “Strawberry Quick” is on a par with strawberry cigarettes or strawberry alcopops, or strawberry PopTarts and pink sugary cereal? No, I’m saying the branding strategy is the same, if not identical in some cases.

Parents and health professionals desperately try to keep kids out of harm’s way knowing that behaviors stick the earlier they develop. They KNOW that reversing toxic mannerisms is one thing, extracting physical addiction is another.

I’m not advocating for a “nanny-nation,” nor saying free enterprise and choice be squashed in favor of healthy living mandates.

I’m saying stop targeting the kids with addictive toxins that trash their bodies.

Stop undermining parents’ efforts. Stop spending millions in short-sighted selfishness to peddle harmful crud.

At Shaping Youth, I’m counter-marketing as fast as I can, but with “caffeine energy drinks” being combined with alcohol, and new ones coming on the market an average of one new product a day (over 700 of them last I checked) it only skims the surface of the billions industry is using to sell out the kids.

As I’ve said countless times before…

The price we pay to mine their childhood will ultimately cost us all.

Leave ‘em alone, you sleazy drug dealers…

And yes, that goes for the ‘legal, corporate ones’ too.

p.s. By the way, speaking of toxic marketing, latest update on Cocaine in a Can is that it will now undergo a name change, albeit under vehement protest.

AP Photo/Credit 



  1. It’s all so very disturbing. Maybe if I refuse my children the Fruit Loops I’m doing a fair bit of teaching them to think for themselves? But then I buy the shirts with tiny polo horses on the chest…

  2. Ah, but what do those horses MEAN? That’s what the kids need to discern. Does an alligator or a polo pony get them
    access, privilege and/or peer acceptance from wearing the icon itself? We need to retrace the routes of ‘where that status symbol came from,’ what it means to wear it, and who put it together…from sweatshops to global branding gurus. THIS is the point we need to make so that kids can deconstruct “EVER-Cool.” N’est ce pas?

  3. This was very interesting to read. I think that drug abuse is very major issue in the world today. Many people are addicted to drugs or alcohol and not very many people are doing anything about it. This is why I think that the awareness of it must go up.

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