The consequences were inevitable. As lemons came to be seen as a literal lifeline, retailers responded by bumping up lemon prices to hyperinflation-esque levels. Desperate folks were forced to pay, having been convinced that lemons were the only thing that could keep them safe from the plague that had already killed millions of people worldwide.
However, you might be surprised to learn that lemons don't do jack shit to cure the influenza virus. So how did this cure-all come around? Because the good folks at Sunkist wanted to make a buttload of money. When the pandemic began in 1918, the fruit company quickly put out a series of advertisements, disguised as official-looking public health warnings, advising people about what they could do to avoid being plagued. They included steps like avoiding crowds, getting plenty of sleep, and oh right, drinking one or two glasses of hot lemonade. After these ads went out and reached an estimated TWENTY-TWO MILLION PEOPLE, sales of lemons rose by over 80 percent ... which not only made the company that Sunkist a buttload of cash, but helped cement lemons as a staple food in the American diet.
Ordinarily, this is where we'd go hard on calling these guys manipulative sociopaths, but credit where credit is due: at least they didn't hire a doctor who talks about "demon sperm" to scare your grandparents into drinking fish medication.