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SF Judge Refuses Bid To Block Health Soda Warning Label Law

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A federal judge in San Francisco refused Tuesday to grant a preliminary injunction blocking a city law that requires advertisements for sodas and other sugary drinks to carry a health warning label.

Unless it is successfully appealed by beverage and advertising industry groups to a higher court, the decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen means the law will go into effect on July 25 as scheduled.

The American Beverage Association and two other organizations still have the right to have a full trial on their lawsuit at a later date, but the law will remain in force until the outcome of the trial.

The measure was enacted by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors last year.

"The warning required by the city ordinance is factual and accurate, and the city had a reasonable basis for requiring the warning given its interest in public health and safety," Chen wrote in a 31-page decision.

The law requires a notice stating, "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 warning must cover 20 percent of the area of the ad.

The requirement applies to ads on billboards, posters, walls, bus shelters and transit vehicles, but not to newspaper and magazine ads, beverage containers and menus.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Association was joined by the California Retailers Association and California State Outdoor Advertising Association in the lawsuit filed last year. They contend the measure violates their constitutional right of free speech by forcing them to display a message they don't agree with.

The beverage association issued a statement Tuesday saying, "We are disappointed in the court's ruling on our motion for a preliminary injunction as we believe that the city of San Francisco's mandate violates the constitutional rights of a select group by unfairly discriminating against one particular category of products, based on one ingredient found in many other products.

"We are reviewing the decision and look forward to making our case on the merits of this ordinance in court," the association said.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office defended the law, said, "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."

"Judge Chen's decision clears the way for us to start enforcing our ordinance in July," Herrera said in a statement.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, a sponsor of the law, said, "These health warnings will provide the clear information people need to make informed decisions about what they are choosing to drink."


© Copyright 2016 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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