State senator Bill Monning thinks adding warning labels to sweetened drink containers will help reduce obesity and Type 2 diabetes. If his bill, SB 1000, becomes law it probably won’t be the last bill to create a warning label on goods and products.

One thing is certain, SB 1000 adds more regulations and more headaches for businesses.

Warning labels have been around since the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965. It has been argued by anti-smoking advocates that the cigarette warning label helped reduce smoking in the United States. But as warning labels have proliferated they tend to be ignored. When was the last time you paid attention to the ubiquitous Proposition 65 warning sign about cancer causing agents on the premises?

As Monning focuses on one product the question is raised about the fairness of labeling one product or activity over another. Where should the line be drawn on warning labels?

The ultimate result could be an explosion of warning labels from food products to sporting equipment that would leave the public dazed.

The beverage industry rightly asks why sugary soft drinks are targeted for labeling when candy and other foods are not. The soda cans already give consumers information about calories. Sugary drinks alone are not the lone culprit in the obesity plague that faces the country.

Let’s accept for the sake of argument that labeling serves as a positive instrument of information for consumers. Information is a good thing and allows consumers to make decisions.

But if that is true with sugary drinks why should it not be true for other goods and services? More labeling would dull the intended effect of labels and add to businesses burdens if the Monning bill model is followed.

Monning’s bill suggests the following label for sugary drinks: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

Imagine the labels that could appear on other products if he is successful.

On footballs and football helmets:  STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Playing football could result in concussions, broken bones, torn muscles and other physical ailments.

On car steering wheels: STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING:  Automobile accidents total over 30,000 deaths and two-million injuries a year. Are you sure you want to start this vehicle?

I assume those supporting legalization of marijuana believe that its effects should be noted in a warning label.  Right?

If there is an explosion of warning labels, more warning labels mean added costs and time-consuming record keeping to businesses. The Monning bill requires business to keep for two years extensive records on sugary drinks invoiced and sold. Enforcement agencies can check the records any time during business hours. How this requirement leads to reducing obesity is anyone’s guess. But businesses and consumers will pay for the regulation.