S.F. Supervisors pass laws requiring health warnings on soda ads

sodaOn Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to pass legislation that would require posted advertisements for sodas and other beverages to include health warnings. Additional legislation bans the use of city funds to purchase sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages. The placement of ads for such beverages is also prohibited on city-owned property.

“Today, San Francisco has sent a clear message that we need to do more to protect our community’s health,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, in a prepared statement. “These health warnings will help provide people information they need to make informed decisions about what beverages they consume. Requiring health warnings on soda ads also makes clear that these drinks aren’t harmless – indeed, quite the opposite – and that the puppies, unicorns, and rainbows depicted in soda ads aren’t reality. These drinks are making people sick, and we need to make that clear to the public. All three pieces of legislation passed today will improve the health of our community.”

“This prohibition on advertisements for sugar sweetened beverages will align our city’s policies closer with our existing public health goals,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said in the same release. “Our residents, particularly our youth, deserve to be in an environment where residents are exposed to messages and advertisements that promote health, not harmful substances.”

The three ordinances and their requirements are detailed below:

  • “Supervisor Wiener’s legislation requiring health warnings on all posted advertisements for sugar-sweetened beverages with 25 or more calories per 12 ounces. The warning will read the following “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.” The size of the warnings will be at least 20 percent of the ad space, which is the standard required by the FDA on tobacco warnings. The warnings will only apply to advertisements posted after the effective date of the legislation.
  • “Supervisor Cohen’s legislation will prohibit the placement of advertisements for sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages on city owned property. Currently, tobacco and alcohol advertisements are subject to this prohibition. There will be an exception for permitted events in public spaces, like Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, where the permit and lease can grant separate rules.
  • “Supervisor Mar will introduce legislation that bans the use of city funds, whether by city departments or city contractor, on the purchase of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The ordinances do not require warning labels on individual bottles or cans.

“The new warning label requirement on sugary drink ads does exactly what the beverage industry has long called for: provides consumers with education. Now, for every advertising message saying ‘live for now’ or ‘open happiness,’ consumers will also receive a science-based reminder that these products contribute to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay,” Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of California Center for Public Health Advocacy, said in a prepared statement.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors previously passed a resolution in support of Senate Bill 203, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Carmel. SB203 would have made California “the first state to require health warning labels to be placed on sugary drinks, including sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks.” The bill failed to clear the Senate health committee and will be eligible for reconsideration on January 2016.

In 2014, The Field Poll released survey results revealing “broad voter support for posting a health warning label on sodas and sugary drinks and taxing their sale to provide funds for school nutrition and physical activity programs.”

But opponents to the ban say it isn’t fair to penalize sugary drinks and advertising.

“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,” Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev, told the AP.

“The beverage industry already provides consumer-friendly labels on the front of every can, bottle and pack we produce,” American Beverage Association vice president William Dermody wrote in an email to NPR. “A misleading warning label that singles out one industry for complex health challenges will not change behaviors or educate people about healthy lifestyles.”

All three ordinances go into effect 30 days after the mayor has signed the legislation.


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  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 June, 2015, 09:00

    SF is a petri dish for nutty regulations. The town is dirtier than LA. Parking is a nightmare. You need a federal subsidy to afford lunch……

    Reply this comment
  2. Howard Epstein
    Howard Epstein 10 June, 2015, 12:01

    The San Francisco Board of Nannies are at it again. What about other suggary snake – donuts, cookies, cake, ice cream, etc? BTW, hate-mongering anti-Semitic and islamophobic adds are allowed on the sides on Muni Buses.

    Reply this comment
  3. Teddy's Love Child (aka Son of Queeg)
    Teddy's Love Child (aka Son of Queeg) 12 June, 2015, 21:23

    We should all be grateful….how could we possibly live our lives if our rulers did not tell us?

    Reply this comment

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