Sweet News for Warnings on Sugary Sodas

San Francisco’s law requiring ads for sodas and other sugary drinks to carry warnings about the risk of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay survived a challenge by the beverage industry.

The law, the first of its kind in the country, may take effect in July as scheduled, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled Tuesday.

Chen rejected a challenge by the advertising industry and beverage association that the mandatory warning is misleading and violates free speech.

The law, approved by the Board of Supervisors last year, requires display advertising for sodas and sugar-laden drinks to carry a warning that takes up 20 percent of the advertising space. The warning will not apply to newspaper, magazine and TV ads and will not be required on menus or product labels.

The American Beverage Association, the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association asked Chen to enjoin the law.

San Francisco justified the law stating that in 2015 the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture concluded that the appropriate level of added sugar was 4 to 6 percent of total calories. But research shows that over 70 percent of adults get 10 percent of more of calories from added sugar.

This increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the report stated.

San Francisco said low-income families are more likely to be harmed by obesity and diabetes. The city found that 18 percent of three and four-year-olds enrolled in Head Start were obese and an additional 13 percent were overweight.

In addition, the American Dental Association has warned a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can damage teeth.

The annual cost of obesity to California families, employers and the health care industry is estimated to be $21 billion.

“Plaintiffs have failed to establish that a substantial amount of noncommercial speech will be…judged in relation to the amount of commercial speech regulated,” Chen wrote.

Thus, the facial constitutional challenge based on free speech “is not likely to succeed,” he said.

He denied an injunction.

Case: American Beverage Assoc. v. City of San Francisco, No. 15-cv-3415

 

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