Are Australians ready for warning labels, marketing bans and sugary drink taxes: Two cross-sectional surveys measuring support for policy responses to sugar-sweetened beverages

Caroline L. Miller, Joanne Dono, Melanie A. Wakefield, Simone Pettigrew, John Coveney, David Roder, Sarah J. Durkin, Gary Wittert, Jane Martin, Kerry A. Ettridge

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Objective To assess public support for 10 potential policy initiatives to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption. Design A 2014 historical data set, which employed a face-to-face survey in one Australian state (study 1), provided the basis for comparison with our 2017 nationally representative, cross-sectional, computer-assisted telephone interviewing population survey (study 2). Participants Study 1: South Australians, 15+ years (n=2732); study 2: Australians, 18+ years (n=3430). Primary outcome measures: levels of support for SSB-specific policy initiatives. For the 2017 national study (study 2), demographic characteristics, body mass index, knowledge of potential harms caused by consuming SSBs and SSB consumption were included in multivariable regression analyses. Results In 2017, all 10 potential policy initiatives received majority support (60%-88% either 'somewhat' or 'strongly' in favour). Initiatives with educative elements or focused on children received high support (>70%), with highest support observed for text warning labels on drink containers (88%) and government campaigns warning of adverse health effects (87%). Higher support was observed for SSB tax paired with using funds for obesity prevention (77%) than a stand-alone tax (60%). Support for policy initiatives was generally greater among those who believed SSB daily consumption could cause health problems in adults (4%-18% absolute difference) and/or in children (8%-26% absolute difference) and lower among SSB high consumers (7+ drinks per week; 9%-29% absolute difference). State-specific data comparison indicated increased support from 2014 to 2017 for taxation (42%vs55%; χ 2 =15.7, p<0.001) and graphic health warnings (52%vs68%; χ 2 =23.4. p<0.001). Conclusions There is strong public support for government action, particularly regulatory and educational interventions, to reduce SSB consumption, which appears to have increased since 2014. The findings suggest that framing policies as protecting children, presenting taxation of SSBs in conjunction with other obesity prevention initiatives and education focused on the harms associated with SSB consumption will increase support.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere027962
Number of pages13
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:


  • policy
  • sugar tax
  • sugar-sweetened beverages
  • warning labels

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