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This Lawsuit Claims Soda Warning Labels Are a Threat to Freedom

In San Francisco, billboards advertising soda may soon be forced to have warning labels similar to the graphic ones found on cigarette boxes. But this company says that's pretty much like sticking the middle finger to Uncle Sam.

Are sodas really the new cigarettes?

The entire city of San Francisco apparently thinks so, or at least its lawmakers do. A proposed piece of legislation would slap warning labels similar to the scary ones found on cigarette boxes on to any kind of soda advertising displayed within city limits.

That's not exactly good news for the American Beverage Association, the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, or the California Retailers Association—three companies that think treating soda like cigarettes would make America's founding fathers roll over in their graves. What about the First Amendment?


READ: France is About to Ban Unlimited Soda Refills

And the First Amendment is exactly what the three organizations are invoking in their recent lawsuit against the city, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. The lawsuit argues that "the city is trying to ensure that there is no free marketplace of ideas, but instead only a government-imposed, one-sided public 'dialogue' on the topic."

The plaintiffs apparently believe that including labels that say "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay" on every single billboard in town infringe on their rights to promote sweet, sweet soda.

The American Beverage Association doesn't only have sodas in their product line. In fact, they work with certain brands popular in the health-conscious communities, such as Zico coconut water and Lipton's PureLeaf iced tea brand, but sugary drinks certainly make up the majority of their vast product line.

Similar government-enforced warning messages are already active in Mexico, with subliminal-like phrases like "play sports" or "eat well" randomly popping up during throughout every TV commercial for junk food or sodas. In any case, this will be an uphill battle for soft drink companies, as soda consumption is currently on its tenth year of declining sales in the US.

And that isn't to say that there aren't pleasures to be found in the occasional root beer or cane sugar-sweetened Mexican Coke with tacos sometimes. But then again, there just may be bigger things to worry about in San Francisco, like this one-bedroom apartment in the Mission District that is currently renting for $6,800.