Russian man seeks to have Coca-Cola advertising banned as 'drug propaganda'

A Russian man, after no doubt much careful consideration, has asked the government to ban Coca-Cola adverts. Vladimir Savinkov, from Orenburg near the Kazakhstan border, could be described as exceptionally brave for taking on one of the world’s most ubiquitous brands. Some people might use different words.

As everyone knows, early recipes for the drink included coca leaf extract (although nowadays the company is somewhat ambiguous over this part of its history). There may be no cocaine in the modern drink, but arguably the sugar and caffeine have made many people across the world dependent on it. However Mr Savinkov’s beef is with Coca-Cola’s name, which, in his mind, promotes growing the coca plant. He has been complaining about widespread drug propaganda for a long time, and is frustrated: “My mouth is sore, and things still haven’t budged an inch”.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has said that they are considering Mr Savinkov’s claims, and by the end of February this year we will know if there will be a criminal investigation.

Mr Savinkov’s other targets include: Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume (already much despised by many Chinese people, as they see it as being insensitive to the wars that started ‘the century of humiliation’); Levi Strauss & Co (whose Rasta guitar straps sport cannabis leaves); manufacturers of hemp oil (which “favours the spread of opinions on the usefulness of cannabis in general”); a chocolate brand ‘Red Poppy’ (whose packaging has a picture of the plant from which heroin is made); and Moscow’s ‘Friendship of Nations’ monument (above), in which the ‘Sheaf of Plenty’ looks too much like hemp for Mr Savinkov’s liking.

There are very many drug-dependent Russians, and the government takes the issue very seriously. But as entertaining a news story as a criminal investigation into Coca-Cola for drug propaganda would be, the government would of course be astoundingly daft to believe that banning Coca-Cola adverts might be a potential solution to Russia’s problems. Why not ban listening to ‘Purple Haze’ or watching ‘Pulp Fiction’ as well? Even if everything vaguely drug-related was removed from mainstream Russian culture, we can be fairly sure that people would still use drugs.

Mr Savinkov seems to suffer from the utopian delusion that is typical of prohibitionists – that a drug-free society is possible, and all we need to do is to stop people being curious about drugs. If he, and the Russian government, calmed down and simply accepted that some people are going to take drugs, then perhaps they could give more attention to helping those who need support.