Published: March 2014

ID #: 69173

Journal: Am J Public Health

Authors: Jou J, Niederdeppe J, Barry CL, Gollust SE

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Strategic messaging is used to emphasize certain aspects of issues in policy debates, shaping public views and policy-making processes. This paper explores the use of strategic messaging by proponents of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation to influence public opinion, emphasizing the experiences in El Monte and Richmond, Calif., where SSB tax proposals were voted on in 2012. Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 stakeholders in California and across the country about the use and perceived effectiveness of messages supporting and opposing SSB taxation. The pro-tax messages most frequently mentioned by respondents were investing tax revenue into health-related programs and linking SSB consumption to health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes. The most frequently mentioned anti-tax messages addressed negative economic effects on businesses and government restriction of personal choices. Factors contributing to perceived messaging effectiveness included clearly defining “sugar-sweetened beverage” and earmarking funds for obesity prevention, incorporating cultural sensitivity into messaging, and providing education about the health effects of SSB consumption.

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