The soft drink industry and the nation's largest advertisers have declared war on a San Francisco ordinance that targets sugary drinks.
Approved in June by the city's board of supervisors as part of a raft of anti-soda regulations, this ordinance requires soft drink ads on billboards and other outdoor spaces contain a warning that "Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay."
The warning must be placed on all ads of beverages that contain 25 calories or more of sugar in 12 ounces.
Two other ordinances signed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in June would prohibit ads for sugary drinks on city-owned property, like parks and bus shelters, and ban city departments from purchasing sugary drinks with city funds.
Earlier this month, the American Beverage Association won its battle against the prohibition of soft drink ads on city property when the board of supervisors voted unanimously to repeal the ban of soft drink ads on city property.
Rachael Kagan, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said the ordinance was repealed "on First Amendment grounds."
Dan Jaffe, the top lobbyist for the Association of National Advertisers said that the San Francisco ordinance opens the door for local governments to put their message on someone else's advertising.
"There are all sorts of things that contribute to obesity," he said.
ANA and the ABA say the San Francisco's actions violate the constitutional right of free speech.
"The ordinances single out one particular category of products based on one ingredient that is found in thousands of foods and beverages, taking away our ability to advertise in the same way and in the same places as other consumer products," the ABA said in a statement.
The ABA said if the ordinance survives "it means the city could extend its efforts to restrict, ban or require labels to be placed on any advertising of any products at any time simply because the city doesn't like them."
Cigarette ads are required to contain a warning. But that warning was imposed by the nation's surgeon general, Mr. Jaffe said. "not a board of supervisors."
San Francisco's board of supervisors say they are also acting out of concern for the health of city residents.
"The City's purpose in requiring warnings for [sugar-sweetened beverages] to inform the public of the presence of added sugars and thus promote informed consumer choice that may result in reduced caloric intake and improved diet and health, thereby reducing illnesses to which SSBs contribute and associated economic burdens," the ordinance says.