A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Tuesday rejected an attempt to block a San Francisco law that requires health warning labels on ads for sugary drinks. The law, approved by City Council last year, requires health warning labels reading, “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay,” to cover at least 20 percent of advertisements that appear on billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums. Representatives of the beverage industry challenged the law on First Amendment grounds, arguing that it unconstitutionally compels speech. Judge Edward Chen disagreed, denying plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction:
Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim, and it is unlikely that they would suffer irreparable harm if the ordinance were to go into effect. Even if Plaintiffs had established serious questions going to the merits, balancing of hardships does not tip sharply in their favor.
The ruling allows the law to take effect in July.
San Francisco is not the first city to attempt to improve public health by taking on sugary drinks. In 2014 New York’s highest court ruled that the New York City Board of Health exceeded its powers as a regulatory authority by banning the serving of large portions of sugary drinks [JURIST report]. The Portion Cap Rule banned the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces.