In June last year, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an amendment to its health code, requiring ads for sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) to include a warning on “the harmful health effects of consuming such beverages.”
The American Beverage Association, which counts Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple among its members, had filed a lawsuit seeking to block the rule, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment.
But last week a US District Judge refused to block the law, saying “the City is taking legitimate action to protect public health and safety.”
San Francisco’s warnings are set to take effect from July 25, and will apply to ads on city billboards, buses, shelters, and stadiums.
The warning will have to take up 20% of the ad space saying: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco."
A SSB is defined as having one or more added caloric sweeteners and contains more than 25 calories per 12 ounces.
The American Beverage Association said, “We are disappointed in the Court's ruling on our motion for a preliminary injunction as we believe that the City of San Francisco’s mandate violates the constitutional rights of a select group by unfairly discriminating against one particular category of products, based on one ingredient found in many other products.
"We are reviewing the decision and look forward to making our case on the merits of this ordinance in court.”
However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said it was a “major step forward in public health efforts to combat diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and other soda-related diseases.”
“We hope that public health and legislative bodies everywhere take note of this ruling and take swift action to protect their citizens’ health.”
Calls for similar measures in the UK
UK campaign group Action on Sugar is now calling for mandatory warnings on soda adverts in the UK, as part of the government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy (due in July).
“If we are going to tackle the UK’s escalating obesity epidemic which will cripple the NHS if it is not addressed immediately, consumers need to be fully aware of the huge quantities of sugar in soft drinks which contribute to the onset of obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Jennifer Rosborough, campaign manager, Action on Sugar.