This past Friday the beverage industry sued San Francisco state officials in an attempt to delay the law that would require it to add health warnings to commercials promoting sugary sodas.
The proposed phrasing for the warning reads the following: “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”. It was unanimously approved by state officials just last month.
Sugary beverages are defined as drinks that have more than 25 calories per 12 ounce from sweeteners. They include sugary sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, ice teas, vitamin waters and flavored milks.
An important thing to mention is that no calorie sodas such as Coca Cola Zero would not need to include this warning in their commercials (as they are low on calories), however commercials for classic Coca Cola would be required to include the warning.
Other ordinances want to ban the placement of ads promoting sugary beverages on property owned by the city (parks or bus shelters for instance), as well as deny city departments the right to purchase sugary beverages using city funds.
In response, a civil complaint has been filed by the American Beverage Association in the United States District Court for California’s Northern District. The association challenges the ordinances and claims that they violate the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The complaint makes a powerful statement that the city of San Francisco is trying to make sure that there’s no free marketplace for ideas, just a one-sided government-imposed public ‘dialog’ on the subject.
What’s more, the American Beverage Association also points out that that San Francisco state officials are shinning a spotlight on sugar-sweetened beverages with their health warning and unfairly villainizing these products more than any other beverage or food.
In doing so, they also contribute to a widely held, but misleading and controversial belief that they are dangerous to people’s health regardless of the quantity that they are being consume in and more hazardous to people’s health than any other beverage or food.
The American Beverage Association is being supported in its complaint by the California Retailers Association as well as the California State Outdoor Advertising Association.
The state of San Francisco is the first one to take this innovative approach in the fight against sugary beverages. Supporters of this movement claim that frequent consumption of these products leads to health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which in turn can lead to death under certain circumstances.
The American Beverage Association claims that they are being unfairly treated and isolated from all the other foods and beverages currently available on the market. So far PepsiCo, Coke, and Dr Pepper have spent over $100 million fighting off various proposals for special taxes that state officials from several cities have tried to add to sugary beveraghe.
Were the new ordinances to pass, the law referring to the health warning would go into effect next year, on July 25, 2016, and the law referring to the advertising ban would go into effect on Monday (July 27, 2016).
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