The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today granted a preliminary injunction to block a San Francisco law requiring a warning message be placed on certain sugar-sweetened beverage advertisements in the city.
The court determined that the warning is misleading and violates freedom of speech. It overturned a lower District Court ruling that had rejected a request by the American Beverage Association (ABA) and other groups to enjoin the law.
"By focusing on a single product, the warning conveys the message that sugar-sweetened beverages are less healthy than other sources of added sugars and calories and are more likely to contribute to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay than other foods,” the court stated. “This message is deceptive in light of the current state of research on this issue."
Originally enacted in 2015, the ordinance would have required that a large, black-box "Warning Mandate" be placed on sugar-sweetened beverage ads that appear on billboards, buses and other similar locations in San Francisco. The label would read: "WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
The court’s ruling means the case will return to the District Court where the ABA and its co-plaintiffs will seek an order to permanently enjoin the warning mandate.
The ABA issued a statement on behalf of the industry in response to today’s decision, saying that the "decision affirms our position that the San Francisco warning mandate not only violates the constitutional right to free speech but it is also deceptive and misleading to consumers. America's beverage companies believe there are better ways to help people reduce their sugar consumption. That's why we're taking steps to reduce sugar in our beverages, offer more choices with less sugar and put calorie information up front so people can make informed decisions about their drinks."