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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

San Francisco Dumps Part of Its Soda Ad Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - After passing some of the strictest legislation in the nation regulating soda and other sugary drinks, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to repeal a ban on soft drink ads on city property.

Days after the board passed the trio of laws in June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar effort to limit ads on public property in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona.

The American Beverage Association subsequently sued San Francisco, claiming the legislation violates the First Amendment.

In addition to banning soda advertising on city property, the original package of laws required warning labels on new soda ads throughout the city and prohibited San Francisco from spending public money on soda.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who sponsored both the legislation at issue and the ordinance to repeal it, said in the board meeting that "we may have lost this particular battle," but "the war rages on."

"This is incredibly disappointing," she said. "But we must move on in a smart and thoughtful manner."

Supervisor Scott Weiner, who also supported the regulations, said "it's unfortunate that the Supreme Court has fetishized commercial and corporate speech to the point that it has."

"Unfortunately the law has changed, so we're taking today's action," he said.

Cohen reminded the board and the audience that "we didn't take down Big Tobacco overnight."

"We're not going to take down Big Soda overnight, either," she said.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association applauded the supervisors' repeal.

"We are pleased that the Board of Supervisors has repealed this unconstitutional law to prohibit sugar-sweetened beverages from being advertised on city property," the group said. "One of our greatest constitutional rights is the right to free speech, and this ban would have violated the First Amendment rights of a targeted group of companies by forcing them to suppress advertisements."

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