The First Amendment protects commercial speech. There are a number of associations dedicated to protecting consumer health. Sometimes, these two interests go head to head.
An ordinance recently reached the US 9th circuit court of appeals–The American Beverage Association, the California Retailers Association and the California State Outdoor Advertising Association urged the court to refuse a mandate requested by the City and County of San Francisco to put warning labels on soda. They wanted advertisements on buses, billboards, and city structures to say:
“WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”
The judges ruled that advertisements do not have to display the recommended warning because it “unduly burdened and chilled protected speech”. One judge wrote that targeting sodas only implied that they were more harmful in causing obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay than other products that have added sugars in them. Like these other sugary products, they are okay if consumed in moderation.
The City of San Francisco maintains that it will continue to find ways to protect the health of its residents. It makes you wonder what the line is between promoting health and hindering speech and choice.