The American Beverage Association has sued the city of San Francisco, claiming new legislation requiring health warning labels on sugary beverages and prohibiting advertisements of them on city property violates the First Amendment.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the association filed the lawsuit on Friday.
The lawsuit says the city “is trying to ensure that there is no free marketplace of ideas, but instead only a government-imposed, one-sided public ‘dialogue’ on the topic — in violation of the First Amendment.”
The Board of Supervisors in June unanimously approved an ordinance that requires health warnings on ads for sugary drinks. The measure requires those warnings be placed along ads on billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums.
The label would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”
It’s an interesting argument. But FoodFacts.com is skeptical, at best. That warning label isn’t impeding the rights of citizens. Instead, it’s actually giving consumers the other side of the story not represented in the beverage company’s advertising. Really the ABA is arguing for the rights of beverage companies to promote their products in a very one-sided manner. The real free marketplace of ideas they speak of is one where all sides of the story are acknowledged, instead of the one where the beverage company touts the merits of its sugar-sweetened beverage without any acknowledgement of the possible health effects of said beverage.
While it sounds quite American to argue in a lawsuit that the First Amendment rights of consumers are being violated through this new legislation, it does strike us as an attempt at a smoke-and-mirrors end run around the law. The ABA isn’t arguing for our First Amendment rights as consumers. Instead, they’re arguing for the First Amendment rights of the beverage companies. Last time we checked, First Amendment rights applied to people, not corporations.