After losing an effort to impose a tax on sugary beverages in November, members of the Board of Supervisors promised to keep the soda battle going. On Tuesday, they followed through with that pledge.
“I call it Round 2 against Big Soda in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who along with supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen introduced pieces of legislation that would impose warning labels on soda advertisements, prohibit the use of city funds to buy soda products and prohibit any soda advertisements on public property.
The warning label will read: “Drinking beverages with added sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”
“There is no one approach that is going to help address the growing health care problem that sugary drinks are creating in our country,” said Wiener, explaining his push for the label. “We are going to have to take various approaches. One of those approaches is education and making sure that consumers are receiving good information about the impact of these drinks.”
Health warnings are one of those strategies for public health awareness, Wiener said, noting “they have worked very well in the cigarette context.”
The soda industry, however, rejected the aim of the effort in a statement.
“Targeting one industry with politically opportunistic legislation does nothing to improve health outcomes and is designed to mislead the public into thinking obesity and diabetes can be cured with a label or a ban,” said Roger Salazar, CalBev spokesman. “Diet and nutrition, especially as they relate to diabetes and obesity, is a complex issue that deserves a comprehensive solution.”
Mar argued that The City's efforts “will help reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and to fight the diabetes and obesity epidemic in our city.” Pointing to the need for action, he said that, according to statistics, one in three children will become diabetic in their lifetime and that number is greater — one in two — for Latinos and blacks.
“Last November, 56 percent of voters in San Francisco agreed that we must do much more as a city to reduce access to harmful sugary beverages like sodas and energy drinks,” Mar said.
The American Beverage Association spent $8 million to sink The City's 2-cents-per-ounce sugary-beverage tax measure, while supporters spent $270,000. Fifty-six percent of the voters supported it, but since the tax revenue was earmarked for health-promotion programs, it required two-thirds approval. The measure fared the worst in minority neighborhoods.
But a similar November measure was met with success in Berkeley, which became the first city in the United States to pass a soda tax at 1 cent per ounce. It took a simple majority since the funds were not designated for any specific use.
San Francisco's renewed legislative efforts come as the Open Truth campaign funded by local hospitals has begun placing advertisements warning of the health risks of drinking soda on public transit.