Moving Toward a Healthier San Francisco - A Recap of Legislative Events.

  • Posted on: Jun 15 2015

By Jessica Ng Luna Klein, MPH Candidate in Public Health Nutrition, University of California, Berkeley, CCPHA Summer Intern.

Months after San Francisco failed to pass a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, the city found itself back in what Supervisor Eric Mar called “Round 2” against the beverage industry. This time around, Supervisors Mar, Scott Wiener, and Malia Cohen proposed legislation that would require warning labels on outdoor SSB advertisements, prohibit the use of city money to purchase sugary drinks, and prevent the placement of SSB advertisements on city property.

On June 1, 2015 San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee discussed the three pieces of legislation — taking into consideration both expert presentations and public comment.

Dean Schillinger, MD of University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and San Francisco General Hospital, spoke about the ways in which the type 2 diabetes epidemic is affecting the city and the nation. Communications expert Fernando Quintero of Berkeley Media Studies Group discussed the “double dose” of unhealthy food and beverage marketing communities of color are subject to as a result of exposure to both mainstream and targeted marketing — reminding us that the need for sugar-sweetened drink policies is not only a health issue, but also a social justiceissue. Finally, University of California, San Francisco postdoctoral fellow Lucy Popova spoke about the effectiveness of warning labels on tobacco products and the tactics used by “Big Tobacco” — drawing a parallel to how warning labels might be effective at curbing SSB consumption and outlining the potential pushback from the beverage industry.

Speakers during public comment included Jillian Wu of the San Francisco Youth Commission who discussed warning labels from the perspective of today’s youth as well as Dr. Arelious Walker from the Tabernacle Community Development Corporation who spoke about how disturbed he was to learn the ways in which companies target communities of color.

Following the numerous speakers voicing overwhelming support for the policies, the committee also heard from the opposition. Lisa Katic, a registered dietician from Virginia, spoke on behalf of the American Beverage Association. She explained why she disagrees with the proposed policies despite the fact that — as Supervisor Wiener pointed out — a broad coalition of health professionals supports them.

Her arguments, however, did not sway the supervisors. The committee unanimously recommended the three policies to the full Board of Supervisors. 

On June 9, 2015, the 11-member San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed all three pieces of legislation — sending a strong message to the beverage industry that health is the city’s priority.

On June 16, 2015 there will be a customary second vote by the Board of Supervisors. If passed again, the legislation will be sent to Mayor Ed Lee for approval. 

We are optimistic that these three pieces of legislation will be enacted and look forward to learning from San Francisco as it works toward becoming a healthier city. Continue the conversation surrounding these important pieces of legislation by following @kickthecaninfo on Twitter.