The city of San Francisco just became enemy No. 1 for the soda industry

City officials yesterday (June 9) voted unanimously on a package of ordinances that would require ads promoting sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages to carry warnings describing the health risks associated with their consumption. If approved by both the Board of Supervisors and the mayor, San Francisco would be become the first in the nation to require such warnings. 

Drinks targeted would include anything containing more than 25 calories from sweeteners per 12 ounces. This includes most sodas (with zero-calorie varieties the exception) and sports and energy drinks, vitamin waters, iced teas, et cetera.

Unlike tobacco products, the warnings will not be on the drinks themselves, but will instead be featured on billboards and other ads. The proposed language 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."

Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Supervisor who sponsored the health warning proposal described sugary drinks as a "looming health crisis" for the nation's healthcare system and insurance rates. 

"We know health warnings work," Weiner told supervisors before the vote. "They worked with cigarettes and they’ll work here."

Warning label example on cans as proposed by California state senators earlier this year. (Photo: CA Center for Public Health)

San Francisco's attempt at passing the warning labels comes after a similar piece of legislation for a statewide initiative fell just short of passage earlier this year

"The scientific evidence of the proven adverse health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages demands a health warning label, and it is only a matter of time before California enacts legislation that informs individuals about healthful beverage choices," stated Senator Bill Monning. 

As one might expect, the American Beverage Association took issue with San Francisco's latest efforts — calling the labels "dangerous and inaccurate."

"The beverage industry is doing its part to focus on real solutions that will help people make informed and balanced choices without taking away their freedom to choose for themselves what to drink," the group said in a statement. 

They added that San Francisco's proposal will only frighten consumers "about products that are safe and can be part of a balanced diet."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

San Francisco moves to add health warnings to sugary drink ads
City could soon be the first to spell out the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages.