Oral Presentation Australian & New Zealand Obesity Society 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting

Sugar-sweetened beverage tax: framing the message for public acceptability (#33)

Jane Martin 1 2 , Belinda Morley 1 , Philippa Niven 1
  1. Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. Obesity Policy Coalition, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Background/Aim: An understanding of how to persuade the public to support a tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) is paramount in advocating for this public health intervention to policy makers and this study aimed to determine the most acceptable message-framing.

Methods: A nationally representative telephone omnibus survey of 1,203 Australian adults in March 2014.

Results: Use of money raised from a tax on SSBs to fund programs to reduce childhood obesity and for children to play sport received the greatest support (85% and 84%) while replacing fast food and SSB sponsorship of children’s sport and subsidising the cost of healthy food received the least support (both 71%).  Improving access to water fountains in public places and facilitating active transport received medium support (79% and 77%).  Consistent with the individual ratings, childhood obesity programs ranked highest as the best way to use the money relative to the other options (26%) and did not differ by demographic characteristics.  Children’s sport also ranked highly (20%) and consistently across demographic groups.  Although receiving the least support individually, a healthy food subsidy ranked highly relative to the other options (21%) but was more acceptable to women (25% cf. 17%), younger adults (18-34: 32% cf. 35-49: 25% and 50+: 9%) and parents (30% cf. 14%).  Sponsorship, water fountains (both 10%) and active transport (9%) ranked lower.

Conclusions: Message-framing around using money raised by a tax on SSBs to fund childhood obesity programs and children’s sport is universally acceptable, while use of the funds to subsidise healthy food is indicated only for specific population subgroups.

Implications: Excise taxes on cigarettes have been effective in reducing consumption.  This study shows the most effective message-frame to raise the salience of a tax on SSBs for the public in order to apply this policy change to obesity prevention.