San Francisco Sizes Up Soda Ad Warnings

San Francisco considers soda warning labels in effort to curb sugar intake

San Francisco is exploring a set of measures that would be the first of their kind in the United States — measures that would mark a significant stand against sodas and other sugary beverages.

Among these measures is a proposal to label advertising for such beverages with disclaimers that 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."

Crafted by supervisor Scott Wiener, the idea is designed to empower consumers with a more complete picture of how sugar affects their health.

"These health warning labels will give people the information they need to make informed choices about how these sodas are impacting their lives and the lives of people in their community," Wiener explained to Mother Jones.

According to San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen, these sodas are affecting some communities more than others.

"Soda companies are spending billions of dollars every year to target low-income and minority communities, which also happen to be some of the communities with the highest risks of Type II diabetes," Cohen said in a press statement. "This ban on soda advertising will help bridge this existing health inequity."

Cohen's proposal mirrors Wiener's in intent but differs in approach. Her measure would ban soda advertising on city property. Supervisor Eric Mar has also proposed that the City of San Francisco no longer spend money on soda. None of the proposals are mutually exclusive, raising the possibility of an unprecedented three-pronged set of anti-sugar ordinances.

Some are less than enthused about the hearing and its implications. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the soda industry spent $10 million to help reject the city's proposed soda tax last year, deploying lobbyists to City Hall and decrying what it deemed bad science.

Critics also argue that such proposals are narrow in scope and unfairly scapegoat certain beverages in spite of the public's widespread overconsumption of sugar.

"We believe that all sugars are the same, and it has more to do with calories in, calories out than anything else," said American Beverage Association spokesman Roger Salazar, per the Chronicle. "No one product can be singled out more than anything else."

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, sugary drinks can contribute to obesity both through caloric intake and by making people feel less full after eating. It also notes that a number of drinks — including fruit juice — can have a similar effect.