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San Francisco Passes Sugary Drink Restrictions

Last fall, the city of San Francisco tried to institute a soda tax. The Proposition E measure would have added a "two cents per ounce" tax on all sugary drinks, upping the price by roughly a quarter a can. While the measure received over 50% "yes" votes, it failed to bring in the two-thirds majority needed to put the law into effect.

Across the Bay, Berkeley successfully instituted a soda tax, the first of its kind in the country. Because of it, the city brought in $116,000 in the first month of the tax. But I had a feeling San Francisco wasn't going to let them hog all the health-based limelight for long.

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Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved three restrictions on sugary drinks, defined as drinks with more than 25 calories from sweeteners per 12 ounces. They are as follows:

1. Warning labels will be placed on all ads for sugary drinks. The label will say: "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." The labels would take up at least 20 percent of the ad space.

2. Advertising for sugary drinks will not be allowed on city-owned property.

3. City agencies will no longer be allowed to purchase sugary beverages.

The restrictions are the first of their kind. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the measures, believes they'll help solve a problem that's threatening the health of all Americans.

"We have a growing health crisis being fueled by these drinks," Wiener said. "Liquid sugar is very different than sugar in food. You can consume a massive amount of sugar, because it's so concentrated in drink, in a very short period of time. You can drink faster than you can eat."

The consequences of consumption never show up in the ads for the product. "When you see these soda ads, they're all love and happiness and puppies and rainbows," Wiener said. "But drinking one to two cans of soda a day increases your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 26 percent."

The American Beverage Association are certainly not pleased with these moves, as evidenced by their response to the restrictions:

"That's just patently false," Wiener said. "We've learned this industry is willing to say or do anything to try to prevent consumers from having full information about just how unhealthy these drinks are. The arguments they're making to these health warnings are the same arguments the tobacco industry made for years about health warnings on cigarettes."

Rather, Wiener says, this statement proves how desperate the ABA has become. "This is the very first time, as far as we know, of any government in the world requiring health warnings in connection to sugary drinks," Wiener said. "The industry knows that if [the warnings] spread to other cities and countries, it will have a negative impact on sales."

The next step for the restrictions are another vote occurring this Tuesday. (It is expected to pass.) Then, Mayor Ed Lee has ten days to sign the measure. (He's expected to sign it.) After that, the restrictions go into effect 30 days later, except the health warnings in advertising, where companies will have one full year to change the content of their ads. Wiener also says that in addition to these, the city may try to pursue another soda tax in the future.

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