Warning labels on sodas: A step in the right direction

March 24, 2014 — by Arman Vaziri and Nelson Wang
In February, lawmakers in California proposed a bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks in an attempt to combat obesity, a strategy reminiscent of Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large containers of soft drinks in New York.
This bill is not a miracle cure for obesity, but is a step in the right direction.
In February, lawmakers in California proposed a bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks in an attempt to combat obesity, a strategy reminiscent of Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large containers of soft drinks in New York.
This bill is not a miracle cure for obesity, but is a step in the right direction.
If the bill becomes law, it would be known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act. It would force all businesses or individuals selling beverages with 75 calories per 12 fluid ounces or more to show a warning label to customers that would read “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay,” similar to labels on cigarettes. Restaurant menus, bottles and even vending machines would all have to display a warning. 
Similarly to the criticism Bloomberg faced, organizations in California have argued that soda is not the root cause of obesity. They say obesity is a complex problem with many contributing factors, and thus the bill doesn’t target the right ones. 
CalBev, an arm of the American Beverage Association, told the LA Times, “We agree that obesity is a serious and complex issue. However, it is misleading to suggest that soft drink consumption is uniquely responsible for weight gain. In fact, only 4 percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda.” 
While it is true that soda is not the only problem, it is impossible to boil down obesity to just one main cause. As a result, it is necessary to begin to combat all the different contributing factors, starting with soda. It’s illogical to argue that we don’t have to address one factor that is detrimental to people’s health just because it isn’t the worst factor. 
Furthermore, critics of the bill downplay the harms of soda by saying they only constitute a small percentage of calories; they neglect to mention that liquid sugar has more detrimental effects, including blocking the immune system from functioning properly. Critics also rarely mention links between sodas and the rising rates of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. 
Others feel that a label, rather than a ban, won’t do anything to prevent people from consuming soda; however, informing the public of the dangers is important in dissuading them from continuing an unhealthy lifestyle. 
The anti-soda bill may not be perfect, but it’s better to start to take action than do nothing at all.