Published: December 2014

ID #: CAS012, CAS016

Journal: Critical Public Health

Authors: Nixon L, Mejia P, Dorfman L

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Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has been identified as a key policy lever to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and to fund nutrition and physical activity programs. This paper analyzes news coverage of three SSB tax proposals in Richmond and El Monte, Calif., and Telluride, Colo., in 2012 and 2013. Although these three proposals failed, news coverage about them was mostly positive. Representatives from the soda industry were absent from news coverage, though anti-tax speakers were often part of local groups funded by the soda industry. The most prevalent pro-tax arguments in Richmond and Telluride centered on the potential health benefits to the community and the health effects of soda. In El Monte, a city facing bankruptcy, supporters claimed the tax would bring in much-needed revenue. Opposition arguments varied based on the context in each community. Tax opponents capitalized on racial division in Richmond, while in Telluride, they argued that obesity was not a pressing problem and that the tax represented government intrusion. In El Monte, opponents predicted the tax would hurt the economy. The authors suggest that understanding the way this issue has been framed may be helpful for future campaigns.

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