San Francisco on Verge of Requiring Warnings on Soda Ads

Sugary Sports Drinks Also Included in New Rules

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Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
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San Francisco will likely soon require health warnings on soda ads, representing a defeat for beverage marketers that have fought such rules.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for the warning on Tuesday. The Associated Press reported that "it's believed that San Francisco would be the first place in the country to require such a warning on ads for soda if it receives a second approval from the Board of Supervisors next week and the mayor does not veto it."

The rules would cover sugary sodas like Coke but not apply to low and no-calorie offerings like Coke Zero, according to the AP, which noted that the rules would also apply to other beverges such as sports and energy drinks that exceed a 25-calorie limit.

According to the AP, a warning message for billboards and other ads would state 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."

But some ads would be exempt, including those in newspapers, circulars, broadcast outlets or the internet, and warnings will not be required for cans and bottles, the AP reported.

"We are disappointed that San Francisco's Board of Supervisors chose the politically expedient route of scapegoating sweetened beverages instead of finding genuine and comprehensive solutions to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes," Bob Achermann, executive director of CalBev, said in a statement. CalBev is an industry group in California representing companies such as Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group.

Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, praised the regulations. "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," he said in a statement. He added: "Hopefully, other elected leaders at the city and state level will follow suit and put the welfare of their residents before the desire of the beverage industry."