The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve warning labels on all print and billboard ads for sodas and sugary drinks in the city, akin to the warnings seen on tobacco products. As the AP, Examiner, and others report, this makes San Francisco the first city in the country to do this, and the beverage industry has already issued a "disappointed" press release in response, vowing to "explore all options," which means they're likely to sue.
The Supes also approved two companion measures that will ban soda ads on city property, and prohibit the use of city funds for the purchase of soda or sugary beverages defined here as those with more than 25 calories from sweeteners per 12 ounces. Interestingly, the new ordinances do not require the warning labels directly on bottles or cans.
The warnings and billboard additions 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." But does this mean, as in the rendering above, that the iconic, 78-year-old Coca-Cola billboard that sits beside the freeway overpass near Third Street in SoMa will have to get a warning label too? San Franciscans already lost their minds when the Coca-Cola Company talked about replacing the vintage neon billboard a few years ago, and they ultimately decided in 2010 to retrofit the sign with an almost identical version with green lighting technology and more sustainable power.
Supervisor Eric Mar, who spearheaded the infamous Happy Meal Toy Ban of 2011, says that the soda warning label legislation grew out of work that he and others have been doing for years to curb the consumption of sugary beverages.
It's estimated that 32 percent of children and teens in San Francisco are overweight or obese, according to a 2012 study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.
Supervisor Scott Wiener who was also a vocal supporter of the law calls these drinks "a looming disaster for our health care system" and adds, "We know that these drinks are fueling the explosion of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver diseases and other serious health problems."
I've reached out to Wiener's and Supervisor Jane Kim's offices for comment on the Coca-Cola billboard, and will let you know what they say.
Update: Supervisor Wiener says there is a "very narrow exemption for vintage signs" in the legislation, for which the SoMa billboard should qualify.
But as commenter murphstahoe suggests, this may mean a warning for the big neon Coke bottle at AT&T Park?