'Sweet talk': framing the merits of a sugar tax in Australia

Julia Anaf, Matt Fisher, Elizabeth Handsley, Fran Baum, Sharon Friel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Although rising rates of obesity are recognized as a major concern for Australian public health, debate on what (if any) responsive action should be undertaken is conceptually and normatively complex. It is shaped by diverse values and interests; different representations of the problem; and many options for action by government, the private sector or individuals. This paper presents research documenting arguments for and against implementing a sugar tax in Australia. It is based on semi-structured interviews with representatives from industry (n = 4), public health (n = 4), policy think tanks (n = 2); and document and media analyses. The research design was informed by framing and agenda setting theory with results reported under four main themes: framing economic impacts, framing equity, framing obesity and framing the ‘nanny state’ versus individual liberty argument. We found that proposals for a sugar tax as part of policy responses to the issue of overweight and obesity in Australia are framed very differently by actors who either support or oppose it. A conclusion is that policy makers and public health advocates involved in policy debates on a sugar tax need to understand the role of problem and ‘solution’ framing, and develop positions based on protecting the public interest as a basic ethical responsibility of governments and public agencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1334-1345
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number5
Early online date26 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • obesity
  • public policy
  • evidence-based health promotion
  • health
  • behaviour
  • health promoting policies


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