Sugary drink taxes: Responding to industry arguments

Big Soda aggressively attacks the sound public health policy of taxing its products. It skillfully deploys sophisticated communications strategies to undermine tax efforts. Core communications, framework, and messaging are similar and predictable across communities. This makes it easier for tax advocates to prepare for the opposition. However, industry messages have evolved, making them more difficult to confront. For this reason, advocates need to keep up to date with the latest arguments. Healthy Food America monitors industry messages and the counter messages used by advocates. This brief summarizes current industry messages and best practice responses.

We have found that our best response to any industry message is to pivot back as quickly as possible to our positive message about the sugary drink tax: it will raise money for addressing important community needs and supporting activities communities value, including prevention of chronic diseases, increasing access to healthy food, and supporting education.

While responding to specific industry messages can useful when the opposition inevitably pushes them out, we’ve also found that engaging on every opposition message risks debating on the opponents’ turf and takes us off our positive message.

The responses supplied here are primarily to arm you with discussion points to help you and your allies feel comfortable knowing what industry arguments you will encounter and how to respond if you find yourself in a situation where you need to do so.

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