Public support for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax and pro-tax messages in a Mid-Atlantic US state

Elisabeth A. Donaldson, Joanna E. Cohen, Lainie Rutkow, Andrea C. Villanti, Norma F. Kanarek, Colleen L. Barry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective To examine the characteristics of supporters and opponents of a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax and to identify pro-tax messages that resonate with the public. Design A survey was administered by telephone in February 2013 to assess public opinion about a penny-per-ounce tax on SSB. Support was also examined for SSB consumption reduction and pro-tax messages. Individual characteristics including sociodemographics, political affiliation, SSB consumption behaviours and beliefs were explored as predictors of support using logistic regression. Setting A representative sample of voters was recruited from a Mid-Atlantic US state. Subjects The sample included 1000 registered voters. Results Findings indicate considerable support (50 %) for an SSB tax. Support was stronger among Democrats, those who believe SSB are a major cause of childhood obesity and those who believe childhood obesity warrants a societal intervention. Belief that a tax would be effective in lowering obesity rates was associated with support for the tax and pro-tax messages. Respondents reporting that a health-care provider had recommended they lose weight were less convinced by pro-tax messages. Women, Independents and those concerned about childhood obesity were more convinced by the SSB reduction messages. Overall, the most popular messages focused on the importance of reducing consumption among children without mentioning the tax. Conclusions Understanding who supports and opposes SSB tax measures can assist advocates in developing strategies to maximize support for this type of intervention. Messages that focus on the effect of consumption on children may be useful in framing the discussion around SSB tax proposals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2263-2273
Number of pages11
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 20 2015


  • Carbonated beverages
  • Health policy
  • Nutrition policy
  • Obesity
  • Paediatric obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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