Herrera beats back motion by American Beverage Association to preliminarily enjoin San Francisco from enforcing health warnings on fixed ads for sugary beverages
SAN FRANCISCO (May 17, 2016)—A U.S. District Court judge has rejected a bid by three trade associations—including the national lobby for sugar-sweetened beverage manufacturers—that sought to enjoin San Francisco from enforcing its first-in-the-nation health warning requirement for certain kinds of sugary drink advertisements.
Today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen denied a motion for preliminary injunction by the American Beverage Association, the California Retailers Association, and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, which sought to block San Francisco from going forward with an ordinance requiring that sugar-sweetened drink ads on such fixed media as billboards and bus shelters display a health warning. The ordinance authored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, which is set to become operative on July 25, would require a message occupying no less than 20 percent of an advertisement’s area to 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.”
“The court forcefully affirmed San Francisco’s interest in protecting public health, and repeatedly emphasized the likelihood that the sugary soda lobby’s case would fall flat,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “Judge Chen’s decision clears the way for us to start enforcing our ordinance in July. I’m gratified by a very strong ruling, which eviscerated plaintiffs’ contention that common-sense warnings about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages—like obesity, diabetes and tooth decay—are somehow misleading. The truth is these sugary products cause many health problems. San Francisco has a strong interest in warning consumers about that, and I commend Supervisor Scott Wiener for his leadership on this issue. I think a strong and thorough ruling like this bodes well for the City’s legal position, should plaintiffs pursue an appeal. ”
Plaintiffs sued San Francisco on July 24, 2015, contending that the ordinance violated their members’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to include a warning that they would not otherwise provide to consumers. The motion for a preliminary injunction sought to stay the city’s enforcement of its law for the duration of the legal challenge on the merits.
“I’m excited the U.S. District Court recognized the authority of the city of San Francisco to promote our community’s health,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. “These health warnings will provide the clear information people need to make informed decisions about what they are choosing to drink. Consumption of sodas and other sugary beverages are making people in our community sick, particularly in our low-income communities, and education is a critical part of improving our society’s health. I want to thank City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the deputy city attorneys and staff who worked on this case for their excellent work defending this ordinance.”
Herrera expressed gratitude to a number of public interest organizations that submitted an amicus brief in support of the City, including: the American Heart Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations; California Academy of Family Physicians; California Center for Public Health Advocacy; California Chapter of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists; California Medical Association; Center for Science in the Public Interest; ChangeLab Solutions; Diabetes Coalition of California; National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; National Association for County and City Health Officials; National Association of Local Boards of Health; Network of Ethnic Physician Organizations; Prevention Institute; Public Health Institute; Public Health Law Center; San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility; San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium; San Francisco Medical Society; Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity; and the Food Trust, and their counsel at ChangeLab Solutions and Public Good Law.
Preliminary Injunction Documents
The case is: American Beverage Association, et al. v. City and County of San Francisco, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 15-CV-03415-EMC, filed July 24, 2015.
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