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San Francisco Soda Ads Will Soon Include Health Warnings

FILE - Coke and Pepsi (Photo by Flickr user Sean Loyless via Creative Commons license)

Advertisements for sugary drinks in public venues in San Francisco will have to carry a warning that the beverages may contribute to obesity, despite a challenge from by soda companies claiming the requirement impeded their freedom of speech.

Labels reading "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." will be required on advertisements for sodas and other sugary beverages placed on billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums in San Francisco.

Warnings will not, however, be required in TV and radio advertisements.

The law, approved unanimously by the San Francisco city council, will take effect July 25th. The measure also prohibits city departments from using city money to buy sugary drinks.

The American Beverage Association filed a case with a federal court in Northern California, arguing that the new law would infringe their First Amendment Right, but U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen decided Tuesday that the measure would not be put on hold while the case proceeds.

The judge said the city "has a legitimate interest in public health and safety" and that it "had a reasonable basis" for implicating sugar-sweetened beverages as a cause of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. He added that the beverage industry, retailers, and outdoor advertising companies were unlikely to succeed in their challenge.

The opponents of the warning indicated they will likely appeal the decision.

San Francisco will become the first city in the United States to mandate health warnings for soda advertisements.