Coke drops adverts in schools

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Coca-Cola is to remove advertising for its soft drinks from the front of all its vending machines in British secondary schools, the company announced yesterday.

The corporation said the decision - thought to be the first time the company has implemented a move of this kind anywhere in the world - recognised the "conflict" between vending machines in schools and classrooms as "commercial-free" areas.

The scheme means pictures of cans of Coca-Cola or Fanta will be replaced with panels showing cartoon children playing with no branding at all. The changes will be made between now and September.

Coca-Cola has 4,000 vending machines in about 1,500 secondary schools in England, Scotland and Wales. There are none in primary schools.

The company also announced the machines would contain fewer choices of Coca-Cola products and more juice drinks and bottled water.

A study in the US warned that a can of soft drink per day made children 60 per cent more likely to become overweight. Concerns over children's health were also paramount for Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers. Mr McAvoy said: "This is a sensible move but we would like to see the end of advertising unhealthy food and drink to children altogether."

Tim Lobstein, the co-director of the Food Commission, added: "This is a small step in the right direction."

Ian Deste, the head of corporate affairs at Coca-Cola Enterprises (GB), said: "We share the view that classrooms should be a commercial-free area and clearly there is some conflict then with highly visible, highly branded machines."

The BBC agreed earlier this month to drop mention of Coca-Cola from its Radio 1 chart rundown and BBC1's Top of the Pops after a sponsorship deal was criticised.