Supervisors Unanimously Approve Ordinance to put Health Warning on Soda Advertisements

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation today that aims to educate consumers about the potential health problems associated with consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages as well as limit advertising and sales of such products on public property.

The three-part legislation, drafted by Supervisors Malia Cohen, Scott Wiener and Eric Mar, will require health warnings to be placed on advertising for sugar-sweetened beverages.

Under the legislation, the warning on the advertisements will read: “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.”

In addition to the warning, which was modeled off of the U.S. Surgeon General’s health warning placed on all tobacco cigarettes since 1966, the legislation also places a moratorium on sugar-sweetened beverage advertisements on city property and prevents city spending on such beverages.

San Francisco supervisors supported the legislation unanimously today and argued that soda, and other sugar-sweetened beverages, are major contributors to diabetes. They said the public deserves to know the associated health risks when considering their purchases.

Wiener said that despite a $10 million lobby by the soda industry against San Francisco’s Soda Tax in the 2014 election, he is pleased that this legislation was unanimously supported today.
In the November election, 56 percent of the voters in San Francisco approved a two-penny per ounce tax on sodas and other sugary beverages distributed in San Francisco, but that the special measure needed a two-thirds approval.

Wiener said a 12-ounce can of soda, on average, has ten teaspoons of sugar. He said he hopes that this legislation will inform citizens that, “these are not just harmless products that taste good, that these are products that are making people sick.”

Wiener said these drinks are “fueling the explosion of type 2 diabetes” and that education is the only way to reverse that trend.

Supervisor Mar said that this legislation was targeted by “Big Soda” and that during the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing on this item last week, a dietician hired by the American Beverage Association, testified that sugar-sweetened beverages are not the problem.

Lisa Katic, a registered dietician and a consultant for the American Beverage Association, testified against the legislation arguing that the warning label unfairly targets the beverage industry and ignores the bigger health issue at hand, which she said is access to nutritional guidance and lack of exercise in people’s routines.

Katic said she doesn’t think warning labels will create the desired impact and that instead, legislators should focus on educating people about how many calories they need each day based on their activity level.

But the supervisors and numerous medical professionals at the hearing maintained that the warning labels would help educate people about the link between sugar-sweetened beverages and diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and other related illnesses.

Following today’s vote, Bob Achermann, the executive director of CalBev, said in a statement that the supervisors singled out one industry and one type of product.

“Today’s vote not only erodes the freedom of speech in San Francisco – especially for local businesses and beverage companies – it also misinforms the public about what causes diabetes and obesity by unjustifiably singling out beverages,” Achermann said.

He said CalBev plans “to explore all options regarding today’s vote.”

This legislation makes San Francisco the first U.S. jurisdiction to require health warnings on soda advertisements and to ban soda advertisements on publicly owned property, according to the supervisors.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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