California lawmakers rejected the bill that would require soda and other sugary soft drinks to be labeled with health warnings. The proposed labels would have read, “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”
Senate Bill (SB) 1000 would have required the label to be placed on the front of all beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The bill needed 10 votes to pass, but fell short with a 7-8 vote. Some lawmakers doubted whether a label change would change consumer behavior.
“Changing behavior is the hardest challenge in the world of medicine,” Senator Bill Monning told lawmakers before the vote, the Daily Mail reported. “But you can’t start to even make a commitment to make behavior change if you don’t have the information.”
The label design was developed by public health advocates using cigarette and alcohol warnings as a model. Current labels on cigarette packages in the United States highlight negative health effects by stating warnings regarding illnesses linked to smoking, such as, lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema.
Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez pointed out that cigarette warning labels were accompanied by taxes and prohibitions on smoking in public places before tobacco use plunged. “It wasn’t necessarily the labels that changed peoples’ habits, but it was the other requirements,” Gomez said, according to the Daily Mail.
Representatives of the beverage industry argued that the bill was unfair because it didn't target other foods and drinks, like lattes and chocolate milk.
“While I am disappointed SB 1000 did not pass out of Committee, I remain committed to pursuing this issue and being part of a broad public health campaign to educate communities about the proven health risks of sugary drinks,” Monning said in a statement. “Protecting the public’s health from the adverse effects of these products will help combat the diabetes and obesity epidemics in California.”
A similar bill was introduced in Vermont last year, and would require manufacturers to put warning labels on beverages that contain sugar or other artificial additives. The bill has been held in the Committee on Human Services since April.