'Coke admits it causes obesity', screamed the US newspaper headlines last week. Headlines tend to exaggerate and use hyperbole to attract attention, but these headlines were surprisingly close to the truth.
We never thought we'd see 'Smoking Kills' plastered across the front of cigarette packets but we did. Now, drinks giant Coca-Cola has come out with an ad that uses the word obesity.
The ad begins in the usual way, with fit, healthy looking models drinking coke and smiling at the same time. This is actually quite a feat of acting. It's not easy to drink a fizzy drink and smile simultaneously. The bubbles go up your nose and make you sneeze. Trust me, I've tried it.
Instead of the usual espousing of the wonders of Coca Cola, the silky voiceover tells us: "All calories count. No matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola. If you eat and drink more than you burn off, you'll gain weight. Obesity concerns all of us."
And there you have it. Finally, the fizzy drinks industry is going to stand up and be counted. And everyone knows, where Coca-Cola goes, all will follow. It's only a matter of time before Pepsi and the other big drinks producers jump on the 'honesty' bandwagon. And it can't happen soon enough.
Two recent surveys carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance found that more than 60pc of adults and 22pc of 5-12 year olds here are obese or overweight. Sobering figures, indeed.
Any survey will tell you that the obesity problem is largely due to junk food. Go to any supermarket these days and you'll see rows of sugary foods and drinks claiming to be 'healthy' and full of 'natural goodness'. What they are full of is sugar, salt and additives.
The sharp rise in obesity in Ireland is very worrying. Granted, some of that is because of the increasingly sedentary lifestyles children are leading, but most of it has to do with bad food choices. Ask any nutritionist and they'll tell you that achieving weight loss comes down to 80pc food and 20pc exercise.
In an attempt to brush up their images and keep the public coming through their doors, fast-food chains are now offering salads and low-calorie options. In the last few years we have seen McDonald's offer salads. Salads! Why in the name of God would you go to McDonald's for a salad? Surely that's an oxymoron?
So, why now? Why are the big food and drinks firms now coming clean about the potential weight gain their products can cause? It's very simple: the regulators are clamping down on fatty and sugary foods and, in the US, the tobacco lawyers, who now have time on their hands, are coming after food and drink companies.
And some of the pressure is coming directly from the White House. US President Barack Obama has introduced a bill that requires any restaurant with more than 20 branches to post calorie counts on their menus. His wife Michelle is passionate about her 'Let's Move' initiative to stop childhood obesity.
At the moment, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, is trying to ban supersize sugary drinks larger than 16oz from being sold in his state. And how right he is. Who in their right mind needs a supersize drink? Supersize drinks in fast-food restaurants are often as big as 32oz. This is the equivalent of a litre of fizzy drink. How thirsty are these people?
Some pizzerias now serve supersize pizzas that are 36 inches in diameter. That is bigger than the average-sized picnic table. No wonder obesity is on the rise.
With many of the lawyers who took down big tobacco preparing class-action suits against big food firms for misleading the public by labelling food as 'natural' or 'healthy', companies like Coca-Cola know it's time to change tactics. They can no longer pretend their drinks are nutritious, their burgers are good for you and their fries are low-fat. It's time for them, like the tobacco companies before them, to face the wrath of a society full of overweight, unhealthy people.