KANSAS CITY — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 31 unanimously blocked a San Francisco law requiring health warnings on advertisements for soda and other sugary drinks because it violates commercial speech protected under the U.S. Constitution, Reuters reported.
“The required warnings therefore offend plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by chilling protected speech,” the 11 judges said in their opinion granting a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect, adding that beverage makers likely would suffer “irreparable harm” if the law was implemented because the warning would “drown out” other visual elements of advertisements. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court blocked the law in 2017, saying it unfairly targeted one group of products. The full 11-judge panel agreed in January 2018 to hear the case. The American Beverage Association had asked for a preliminary injunction in 2015.
The San Francisco ordinance was passed in June 2015. It would have required advertisements on billboards and posters in city limits to include a warning that drinking high-sugar beverages contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. San Francisco is one of several U.S. municipalities that also has a tax on sweetened beverages. The city’s 1c-per-oz tax began Jan. 1, 2018.