For good reason, people cast a wary eye at new regulations purporting to protect the public's health and safety. Some such measures are unnecessary.

But now and then a proposed regulation comes along that passes the threshold for acceptance, one that would address a unique problem and do so without robbing individuals of the right to make their own choices.

The bill to require health warning labels on bottles and cans of sugary drinks sold in California passes those tests.

The state Senate should pass SB1000, by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, by Friday's deadline for bills to move out of the house where they originated.

The label would be required for drinks with 75 or more calories per 12-ounce serving, and would say simply: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."

California would be the first state to put a warning like this on sodas.

Significantly, it wouldn't go only on sodas.

One of the arguments against warning labels on beverages is that nobody needs to be told that too much Coke or Pepsi is harmful. Perhaps so, but a lot of us do need to be told about the risks from many other kinds of drinks. They include a lot of products with "fruit" in their wholesome-sounding names.

The California beverage industry representatives who lead the opposition to SB1000 says that the bill would affect hundreds of drinks, including fruit juices, teas and soy, almond and rice milks and would be "a red-tape nightmare for businesses and consumers."

But they inadvertently make the point that the problem with sugary drinks is much broader than the focus on colas would suggest.

Opponents of SB1000 also would have people believe sugary drinks are no more dangerous than sugary food. Wrong, say the medical facts.

Sugar in liquid form is ingested much faster than sugar in solid food, overloading the liver and pancreas, making it a direct cause of diabetes. Drinking one or two sodas a day raises the risk of diabetes by 26 percent. And nearly two-thirds of California teenagers drink one or more a day.

No wonder rates of Type 2 diabetes in California have risen 35 percent in a decade, and the disease afflicts 31 percent of the state's hospital patients, adding an estimated $2,200 per stay to hospital costs. Diabetes rates are even higher in black and Latino communities.

Nearly 50 years after the first cigarette warning labels (and nearly 30 after those labels began to specifically mention lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema), it is time to give beverage consumers the information they need to make smart decisions about what to put in their bodies.

ONLINE EXTRA: ELECTION 2014
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