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Lawsuits & Litigation

San Francisco Prohibits Advertising Sugary Beverages

— August 6, 2015

The American Beverage Association sued the City of San Francisco over legislation passed in June that prohibits advertising sugary beverages on city property. The law also requires labels on the products warning of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The law is one of the most restrictive in the U.S., including such requirements as warnings labels on advertising placed on buses, transit shelters, billboards, stadiums and posters. The warning would read:

“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

The American Beverage Association and those joined in the suit, the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, aren’t too sweet on the law. The suit claims the City by the Bay is violating the plaintiffs’ 1st Amendment rights. Interestingly enough, the trio opted not to challenge the section of the ordinance that prohibited spending city money on sugary soft drinks.

The suit reads, in part, “The city is free to try to persuade consumers to share its opinions about sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, the city is trying to ensure that there is no free marketplace of ideas, but instead only a government-imposed, one-sided public ‘dialogue’ on the topic — in violation of the First Amendment.”

Sigh. Issues like this make me wish for the apocalypse. I think the city probably has overstepped its authority on the prohibition of advertising on city property. Unless, of course, they can show that all “dangerous” ingestibles, such as alcohol, cigarettes and fast food are also prohibited from being advertised. They may be able to argue governmental authority to protect the public and make it stick. Maybe.

I agree with the warning label part of this unsweetened ordinance. The aforementioned products bear labels warning of the dangers that may be faced by using the products. Why shouldn’t sugary drinks, which do contribute to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, have the same warnings? And yet…

My last comment – and the issue that most makes me long for the apocalypse – is the fact that we, the people should be smart enough to make good choices when it comes to what we stuff in our faces. It doesn’t take a PhD in Nutrition to know that overuse of sugar increases the risk of getting fat, becoming diabetic or losing your teeth. It’s up to us, not “the Man,” to police our dietary intake. How many won’t even read the warnings?

“But I didn’t know drinking two liters of sugary soft drinks and eating a pint of ice cream every day would make me fat/diabetic/toothless!” has become the rallying cry of those unwilling to accept personal responsibility.

Really? If you need me, I’ll be outside look for four dudes on horses.


Beverage group sues S.F. over soda warnings, advertising ban

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