Happy 30th Birthday Diet Coke! Keeping Smart Women Drinking Crap for Three Decades

Just for the taste of it?

Today Diet Coke celebrates its 30th birthday. Since that fateful day when it  was introduced on August 9, 1982, ad campaigns have been targeting sexy, savvy women that just want to keep their waistlines small. In our mid-80s and early 90s stupor (most likely shoulder-pad induced), we were seduced by the likes of Paula Abdul and Whitney Houston selling us a chic and slim product that was made to make us look and feel good. Or at least so the advertising led us to believe.

Lest you think that our newfound love of farmers markets, quinoa salads and artisan cheese would have us move away from mass marketed, artificially sweetened and carbonated drinks, thanks to advertising, branding and marketing, Diet Coke has seated itself as the second most popular soda in the world, with 927 million cases sold in 2010. In Europe you can buy lingerie-inspired Diet Coke bottles designed by Jean Paul Gaultier himself, and apparently it’s so delicious that one consumer in England was drinking seven pints a day for 10 years.

Diet Coke makes you feel sexy. An empowered woman. And hey men, if you drink it, the ladies will be drooling all over you!

We have been seduced by advertising, forgetting to ask ourselves what downing a diet soda a day really does to our bodies.

Diet Coke’s addicts will probably tell you that the research on aspartame is inconclusive (despite the fact that it has over 90 known side effects). As Zoe Williams put it in an article on the history of Diet Coke in the Guardian:

Artificial sweeteners are a very controversial subject. Some governmental health authorities may say they are safe enough, but in the nutrition industry, that’s still up for debate. Some studies indicate that the man-made molecular structure of some artificial sweeteners could be linked to certain health problems. This requires much more research. Research however, has indicated other adverse issues from consumption of artificial sweeteners, including encouraging sugar cravings; and increasing appetite.

No matter how many cheesy ads we watch, deep down we know we shouldn’t be drinking the stuff. Just like you know fully well that you shouldn’t down an entire chocolate cake, or eat barbecued ribs for every meal. “All good things in moderation!” some might say, but is Diet Coke a good thing? Sure, we have yet to prove causation between drink consumption and obesity, but do you see scientists having to come to conclusions on the health effects of water? The fact that we have to test soda to begin with should be true cause for concern.

We should know better. We can forgive our predecessors for sucking down Tab and later turning to Diet Coke when it rebranded, but the fact that we’re still guzzling sodas of any kind in 2012 is simply unacceptable. Single use plastic bottles (because it doesn’t always come in cans), artificial sweeteners, global greenwashing… pick your poison; the entire soda industry is one that’s made up of not only promoting a product whose nutritional elements we don’t need – trust me, Diet Coke is not the place to get your daily dose of, well, anything – but also using resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

Want to really celebrate Diet Coke’s 30th birthday? Try drinking a nice, sexy glass of water instead.

Image: Amy McTigue, Tim’s Blog

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.