POLITICS

San Francisco Wants To Be The City That Takes Down Big Soda

03/10/2015 05:45 pm ET | Updated Mar 10, 2015
Bloomberg via Getty Images

If California is leading the charge against Big Soda, San Francisco is now standing on the front lines.

On Tuesday, three San Francisco supervisors announced plans to introduce pieces of legislation aimed at curtailing residents' sugary beverage consumption. A proposal from Supervisor Scott Wiener would require health warnings on all advertisements for sugar-sweetened beverages with 25 or more calories per 12 ounces (which, if passed, would make San Francisco the first city with such a law); one from Supervisor Malia Cohen would ban sodas and sugar-sweetened beverage advertisements on city property; the third, from Supervisor Eric Mar, would ban the use of city funds to purchase sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a press release from Wiener's office.

The San Francisco Chronicle noted that it is unclear whether the bans proposed by Cohen and Mar exist in any other cities.

"Last year we heard over and over again from voters -- and also the soda industry -- that we should be focusing to improve efforts around education of the harmful effects of sodas," Wiener said. "These health warning labels will give people the information they need to make informed choices about how these sodas are impacting their lives and the lives of people in their community."

The proposals come on the heels of several other efforts in the state to make people more aware of sugary beverages' health effects. Most recently, California Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning (D) introduced a bill last month that would put warnings on beverages containing added sweeteners with at least 75 calories per 12 ounces. His proposal follows a successful ballot measure in Berkeley last November that made it the first city to pass a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

The three supervisors were all behind San Francisco's failed soda tax ballot measure last year. Because revenue gained from the tax was slated for specific uses, the measure required -- but didn't receive -- approval from two-thirds of voters to pass. But with a majority voting in favor of the tax, Mar says, the supervisors want to act on those concerns.

"Last November, 56 percent of voters agreed that San Francisco must do more to reduce access to harmful products and sugary drinks," Mar said in a press release. "We are continuing this fight in 2015 with legislation that will make our communities healthier and better informed about the risks posed by Big Soda."

Industry groups such as the American Beverage Association and CalBev have come out strongly against all anti-soda legislation and say this latest effort once again blames them for a complex obesity epidemic.

"It doesn't surprise me that the supervisors in San Francisco would continue to try to score political points instead of really trying to find a much more comprehensive solution," CalBev spokesman Roger Salazar told The San Francisco Chronicle.

While the beverage industry has brushed off San Francisco Bay Area cities as liberal anomalies that won't set a trend, political analyst Larry Gerston told HuffPost last month that as anti-soda measures mount on the local and state levels, they provide a solid model for other governments to do the same.

"I don't think this issue is going to go away, not given the increasing concern with obesity, especially childhood obesity," Gerston said. "Once the genie's out of the bottle, it's a lot easier to do it the second time around."

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