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California will explore putting health warning labels on soda

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Coca-Cola (Flickr/Vox Vfx)
Coca-Cola (Flickr/Vox Vfx)

Lawmakers in California proposed a new bill last week that would put warnings labels on soft drinks to, they hope, show the link between sugary beverages and the rampant obesity epidemic. The bill is the first of its kind in the country, and aims to follow in the footsteps of the labels that already appear on cigarette packs.

The bill, if passed, would establish the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Warning Act, which would require, without exception, all businesses and individuals that offer beverages with 75 calories per 12 fluid ounces in the state to show a specific warning label to customers. The label would read, "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay," and would appear on bottles, vending machines, countertops, and even menus at restaurants where soft drinks are served. Those who don't comply would be forced to pay a fine of between $50 and $500.

The state of California has a responsibility to protect consumers.

State Senator Bill Monning, who crafted the bill with support from the California Medical Association, believes that measure is necessary to keep Californians informed about their health. At a news conference last Thursday, the senator stated, "When the science is this conclusive, the state of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers." However, the bill won't pass without a fight, and is sure to draw the ire of those who fear a nanny-state. CalBev, the California arm of the American Beverage Association, issued a statement to the LA Times, saying, "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 four percent of calories in the average American diet are derived directly from soda." Still, Monning hopes that the bill will serve as a model for the country if and when it goes into effect on July 1st, 2015.