A Federal Court Has Blocked Cities From Putting Cigarette-Style Ads On Soda

SHUTTERSTOCK

The war on sugar is in its infancy. It’s only recently that discoveries about Big Sugar’s malfeasant ways have come to light. Turns out the reason you think fat is the worst part of our food is that Big Sugar wanted to deflect blame for America’s failing health away from themselves. Decades later we’re only starting to wake up to this fact.

In the new fight against the abundance of process sugars in our food and drink, several cities and counties have enacted sugar taxes, with early success. Another tactic that the people of San Francisco employed was the addition of large labels that warned consumers about the ills of excess processed sugar consumption on ads for sugary soda drinks. This week the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that warning labels on soda ads was a violation of advertiser’s first amendment rights. That means warning labels on soft drinks are now banned.

NINTH US CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

The court stated, “by focusing on a single product, the warning conveys the message that sugar-sweetened beverages are less healthy than other sources of added sugars and calories,” before adding that soda pop, “can be part of a healthy dietary pattern when not consumed in excess amounts.” The court cited guidelines from the FDA which include sugar as part of a well-rounded diet. Which, feels dubious at this point as research mounts citing processed sugar’s ills. It seems we’re stuck in a gray area where former guidelines — which were influenced by Big Sugar’s war on fat — are still piloting bureaucracy.

California state senator Scott Wiener (no relation) sponsored the bill when he was a city council member and was sorely disappointed by the court’s decision. “Apparently, corporate free speech matters more than the health of our children,” Wiener bemoans. “If these corporations are going to spend billions targeting our communities with misleading advertisements that make it seem like drinking sodas is all happiness and rainbows, we should require them to add a little honesty in the form of a simple warning label.”

Wiener is not alone in the bugle call to make the processed sugar content of soda more transparent. San Francisco’s voting public passed a law last November that will tax sugary drinks by a “penny-per-ounce.” So, even without the warning labels on ads for Coke and Pepsi, the fight against excess sugar will rage on in the Bay Area and nationwide.