Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 19, 2006


Page 11



Coca-Cola Denounced as Danger Long After It Ceased to Be ‘Dope’




“This Coca Cola is one of the most pernicious drinks sold.”

So declared Dr. T. J. M. Kelly, a  practicing physician, speaking out as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. His remarks were reported in the Atlanta Constitution on Dec. 6, 1902.

Kelly persuaded colleagues to impose a $1,000-a-year tax on the manufacturers of Coke and other colas. He presented this reasoning:

“You have put a higher tax on whisky, and whisky can ruin only men, but coca-cola is ruining men, women and children of our state and of the south. The manufacturers of this sirup are growing wealthy and are buying valuable real estate all over the city. They can well afford to pay this tax.”

The article related:

“Mr. [R. H.] Brinson, of Decatur, held similar views. He declared that to coca-cola was due the increase of the morphine habit. Competent physicians had stated that the stuff was most injurious to the stomach. He knew of a man in his town who could not transact business in the morning until he had filled up on coca cola.”

(Under a compromise between the two houses of the Georgia Legislature a few days later, the annual tax was set at $400.)

The Statesville, N.C, Landmark on Jan. 3, 1905 carried an article by Prof. M. H. Holt of Oak Ridge Institute which commented:

 “Next to and along with the cigarette, coca-cola is one of the most, successful devices of the devil to injure the unsuspecting youth. Men who read and think and observe, and still continue to drink this drug, are not worth saving.”

A Women’s Christian Temperance League column appearing in the Oxnard Courier on July 5, 1907 contained this item, datelined Washington, D.C.:

“The War Department today issued an order forbidding the sale of Coco-Cola in post exchanges in the department of the east. This action was taken after official reports concerning the effects of the drink and after an analysis of its ingredients was made at the department of agriculture by Professor Wiley, chief chemist. Dr. Wiley reported that in a majority of the samples of Coca-Cola he tested he found quantities of cocaine and caffeine. Officers reported to the war department that enlisted men have discovered the effect which the drink produces upon them and that for the purpose of getting this effect they drink six or seven glasses of the stuff, and that the result is injurious to health as well as morals.

“At the temperance lunch given by the American Medical Association at the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, Atlantic City, N. J., to an address upon Drug Neurosis, Dr. A. E. Sterne of Indianapolis said that his cocaine patients told him they could do without cocaine if be would let them have Coca-Cola.”

The irony is that by 1902, practically all of the cocaine had had been removed from Coca-Cola, notwithstanding the continued use of the coca plant. As I noted last week, it would seem that the Atlanta-based makers of Coke preferred to endure scornful mischaracterizations than to admit that the formula had been altered, virtually eliminating from it the very ingredient that gave Coke its kick.

It began trumpeting reports from independent laboratories—such as in a July 30, 1907 ad in the Atlanta Constitution, declaring that “[i]n every section of the United States, in Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, Coca-Cola has been conscientiously analyzed by the most proficient chemists in their respective sections, and the verdict rendered has universally been that ‘Coca-Cola is as harmless as tea or coffee,’…”



Ad in the Atlanta Constitution, June 23, 1907


Doubts on the part of consumers remained. The Coca-Cola Company launched an aggressive advertising campaign demeaning those who would dare suggest that Coca-Cola contained cocaine. For example, the Oakland Tribune on Aug. 16, 1909 carried a Coca-Cola ad which began:

“Would you take away a woman’s character by gossip unless you were sure of what you were talking about?

“Have you any more right to attack the character of any article of commerce unless you know actually—not by hearsay but by actual proof—that it is what you say it is? Do you realize that when you say or believe and repeat untrue things about an article you are unwarrantedly robbing the makers of that article of just so much of their just and honest trade?

“Yet people occasionally (not frequently because most people are properly informed), through ignorance or malice say that Coca-Cola contains cocaine. That is absolutely and unequivocally untrue. The reports of world-famous chemists, and even of Government experts, has disproved this malicious falsehood time after time. Yet, dishonest competitors of the Coca-Cola Company continue to revive it through the medium of sincere but hysterical or totally ignorant people whom they have used as mouthpieces.”

Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company

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