San Francisco Considers Health Warning Labels on Soda

Just months after voters rejected a tax on sugary beverages, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors is deciding whether to require sugary soda drinks to display a warning label.


The “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warning Ordinance” would require health warnings on advertising within city limits — on billboards, walls, the sides of cabs and buses. Supporters and opponents say San Francisco would be the first place in the country to require warnings on ads for soda, which is linked to rotting teeth and obesity.

San Francisco is following in the food-regulating footsteps of such bastions of liberty as Berkeley and Davis. Berkeley recently approved a soda tax while Davis is requiring milk and water for children’s meals.

“This is a very important step forward in terms of setting strong public policy around the need to reduce consumption of sugary drinks; they are making people sick, they’re helping fuel the explosion of type two diabetes and other health problems in adults and in children,” says Scott Wiener, one of three San Francisco supervisors pushing the legislation.

In other words, it’s for the greater good.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev, the state’s beverage association, said, “It’s unfortunate the Board of Supervisors is choosing the politically expedient route of scapegoating instead of finding a genuine and comprehensive solution to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes.”

But is it really the job of the government to “solve” the problem of obesity and diabetes? Nope.


Another regulation under consideration is the prohibition of advertisements of soda on city-owned property. San Francisco already prohibits advertisements for alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes.

The label for billboards and other ads would 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.”

Soda bottles and cans would not carry the warning, so there’s that.

Here’s a breath of fresh air in the middle of this regulatory nightmare:

Ryan Brooks, spokesman for Outfront Media, says it’s not fair to single out billboards while exempting newspapers and magazines. The company has about 300 billboards and wall spaces that would be affected.

“It’s all these people who are telling me how to live my life and raise my children. I make that decision, not a bunch of elected officials,” he says. “Let’s fix the homeless issue, let’s fix potholes before you start telling me how to live my life.”

Amen, brother, amen.


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