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This Column Cures Cancer
by Michael Giardina

If you read this column, you will never get cancer.

OK, now let's get started. Who can spot the following error Fuze Beverage Company made in an advertisement for its energy drink, "Focus?" On the label, it defines zinc as "a 'mind-sharpening' herb that enhances capillary circulation and increases the circulation of oxygen to the brain." So, I called Fuze to score some herb.

"Hi. You say zinc is an herb. I was under the impression that it's a metal, a mineral."

"Yes, it's a mineral."

"I'm quoting the label on your bottle. Is there a way zinc can be an herb?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"So this is a typo?"

"I believe so."

The "typo" still remains on their website and bottle. It's also interesting to note that Fuze claims that drinking their guarana-containing beverages allows you to "feel good about getting the boost you need without worrying about the side effects of caffeine." I guess they don't care that processed guarana contains approximately 10 percent caffeine. Oh well, another minor typo, I'm sure.

False advertising, although illegal, has become an accepted, common practice. Has your fast-food burger ever appeared even remotely similar to the juicy, scrumptious photos of the food on television? Advertising food with attractive plastic models and spraying sodas with a water bottle to create a glimmering sweat is a shallow joke on consumers.

Have you fallen for workout machine advertisements that show before-and-after photographs? Notice the 'before' pictures have horrible color balance, the camera angles are chosen to overemphasize fat, and often times the women appear pregnant, not fat. The after photographs are obviously altered by fake tans and airbrush techniques. A good indicator is the hairstyle. Hair doesn't grow 12 inches in six months.

I especially hate false advertisements that eat away at our souls by pandering to our anxiety, apprehension and fear of missing a bargain. I have seen tons of late-night commercials with personalities who claim they will throw in a 'special' if you call to order "in the next 10 minutes. News flash: They throw in the "special" whenever you call. They lie, but nobody challenges their miserable tactics.

And sometimes, false advertisements evolve from frustration into serious threat. Indeed, companies used to use aggressive advertising techniques to sell their ephedra- or ephedrine-containing herbal weight-loss supplements that also had the unfortunate consequence of causing fatal intracerebral hemorrhage (read: exploding blood vessels in your brain). Bummer, man. At least now you are sexily skinny.

Perhaps the most reprehensible false advertising involves companies who attempt to sell herbal supplements to those grasping at life, especially those suffering from cancer or AIDS. Such supplements have the potential to interact with other prescription drugs and can be harmful rather than helpful.

In a report by MSNBC, Karen Collins, R.D. notes that St. John's Wort interferes with chemotherapy drugs, excessive amounts of ginger and garlic can slow blood clotting (resulting in dangerous bleeding,) and echinacea damages the liver.

What can Americans do to fight against companies that blatantly lie to us?

Consumers can start by prosecuting false advertising under the Lanham Act; you have to prove an advertiser made false statements, the statements deceived the target population, the deception was material, the product was sold and the plaintiff was injured.

So they can lie as long as they don't injure me? I think my loss of faith in dishonest advertisers and those who are supposed to keep them in check should qualify as injury.



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