Evidence & Policy
A journal of research, debate and practice

Evidence-related framing in the German debate on sugar taxation: a qualitative framing analysis and international comparison

View author details View Less
  • 1 Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Berlin Institute of Health, , Germany
  • | 2 LMU Munich and Pettenkofer School of Public Health, , Germany
  • | 3 University of Cambridge, , UK
  • | 4 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, , UK
Restricted access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

Background:

Taxation of sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages is considered a key policy for improving population-level nutrition. Implementation is influenced by the way evidence is used and framed in public debates. At this time, no sugar tax has been implemented in Germany.

Aims and objectives:

This study aims to deepen the understanding of the political dynamics that influence the adoption of sugar taxes by analysing the use of evidence in the German media debate on sugar taxation and comparing its findings with analyses from other countries.

Methods:

In 114 German newspaper articles, published between 01/2018 and 03/2019, we analysed the use and framing of evidence with an abductive thematic analysis approach. We compared our findings with analyses on the framing around sugar taxation from Mexico, the US and the UK.

Findings:

Evidence was a salient component of the German debate. As in the comparison countries, evidence was used by both tax proponents and opponents but framed differently, for example, regarding problem definitions. However, the German debate relied more strongly on examples from other countries and less on economic arguments.

Discussion and conclusions:

Our findings suggest that German tax proponents should proactively consider economic arguments and counter spurious arguments made by tax opponents. Researchers should be aware of their work’s potential international spillover effects, and public health advocates should correct expectations regarding the evidence on, and health effects of, isolated measures against obesity. To deepen the understanding of the German policy process, further research should involve social media, public documents and stakeholder networks.

  • The Supplementary material is available here: doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.19165748

  • Akin-Onitolo, A. and Hawkins, B. (2021) Framing tobacco control: the case of the Nigerian tobacco tax debates, Health Policy and Planning, 37(1): 2232. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czab095

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Backholer, K., Sarink, D., Beauchamp, A., Keating, C., Loh, V., Ball, K., Martin, J. and Peeters, A. (2016) The impact of a tax on Sugar-sweetened beverages according to Socio-economic position: a systematic review of the evidence, Public Health Nutrition, 19(17): 307084. doi: 10.1017/S136898001600104X

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bandy, L.K., Scarborough, P., Harrington, R.A., Rayner, M. and Jebb, S.A. (2020) Reductions in sugar sales from soft drinks in the UK from 2015 to 2018, BMC Medicine, 18(1): 20. doi: 10.1186/s12916-019-1477-4

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Baumgartner, F.R. and Jones, B.D. (1993) Agendas and Instability in American Politics, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Bes-Rastrollo, M., Sayon-Orea, C., Ruiz-Canela, M. and Martinez-Gonzalez, M.A. (2016) Impact of sugars and sugar taxation on body weight control: a comprehensive literature review, Obesity, 24(7): 141026. doi: 10.1002/oby.21535

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2): 77101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Buckton, C.H., Fergie, G., Leifeld, P. and Hilton, S. (2019) A discourse network analysis of UK newspaper coverage of the ‘sugar tax’ debate before and after the announcement of the soft drinks industry levy, BMC Public Health, 19(1): 490. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6799-9

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Buckton, C.H., Patterson, C., Hyseni, L., Katikireddi, S.V., Lloyd-Williams, F., Elliott-Green, A., Capewell, S. and Hilton, S. (2018) The palatability of Sugar-sweetened beverage taxation: a content analysis of newspaper coverage of the UK sugar debate, PLoS ONE, 13(12): e0207576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207576

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carriedo Lutzenkirchen, A.A. (2018) A Policy Analysis of the 2014 Mexican Soda Tax, PhD thesis, London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Charmaz, K. (2014) The logic of grounded theory coding practices and initial coding, in K. Charmaz (ed) Constructing Grounded Theory, 2nd edn, London: Sage, pp 10937.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Effertz, T. (2017) Die Auswirkungen der Besteuerung von Lebensmitteln auf Ernährungsverhalten, Körpergewicht und Gesundheitskosten in Deutschland [The effects of food taxes on dietary patterns, body weight and health costs in Germany], https://adipositas-gesellschaft.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Studie-gesunde-MwSt.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Entman, R.M. (1993) Framing: toward clarification of a fractured paradigm, Journal of Communication, 43(4): 5158. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1993.tb01304.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ettelt, S. and Hawkins, B. (2018) Scientific controversy, issue salience, and e-cigarette regulation: a comparative study of policy debates in Germany and England, European Policy Analysis, 4(2): 25574. doi: 10.1002/epa2.1039

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO (2019) The state of food security and nutrition in the world: safeguarding against economic slowdowns and downturns, http://www.fao.org/3/ca5162en/ca5162en.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fernandez, M.A. and Raine, K.D. (2019) Insights on the influence of sugar taxes on obesity prevention efforts, Current Nutrition Reports, 8(4): 33339. doi: 10.1007/s13668-019-00282-4

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fooks, G.J., Williams, S., Box, G. and Sacks, G. (2019) Corporations’ use and misuse of evidence to influence health policy: a case study of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation, Globalization and Health, 15(1): 120. doi: 10.1186/s12992-018-0425-y

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greenhalgh, T. and Russell, J. (2006) Reframing evidence synthesis as rhetorical action in the policy making drama, Healthcare Policy | Politiques de Santé, 1(2): 3442.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greenhalgh, T. and Russell, J. (2009) Evidence-based policymaking: a critique, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 52(2): 30418. doi: 10.1353/pbm.0.0085

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawkins, B. and Ettelt, S. (2019) The strategic uses of evidence in UK E-cigarettes policy debates, Evidence & Policy, 15(4): 57996.

  • Hawkins, B. and Holden, C. (2013) Framing the alcohol policy debate: industry actors and the regulation of the UK beverage alcohol market, Critical Policy Studies, 7(1): 5371. doi: 10.1080/19460171.2013.766023

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawkins, B., Holden, C. and Mackinder, S. (2020) The Battle for Standardised Cigarette Packaging in Europe, 1st edn, Cham: Palgrave Pivot.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hawkins, B. and Parkhurst, J. (2015) The ‘good governance’ of evidence in health policy, Evidence & Policy, 12(4): 57592.

  • Hilton, S., Buckton, C.H., Patterson, C., Katikireddi, S.V., Lloyd-Williams, F., Hyseni, L., Elliott-Green, A. and Capewell, S. (2019) Following in the footsteps of tobacco and alcohol? Stakeholder discourse in UK newspaper coverage of the soft drinks industry levy, Public Health Nutrition, 22(12): 231728. doi: 10.1017/S1368980019000739

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kingdon, J.W. (1995) Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd edn, New York: Longman.

  • Koon, A.D., Hawkins, B. and Mayhew, S.H. (2016) Framing and the health policy process: a scoping review, Health Policy and Planning, 31(6): 80116. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czv128

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lauber, K., Ralston, R., Mialon, M., Carriedo, A. and Gilmore, A.B. (2020) Non-communicable disease governance in the era of the sustainable development goals: a qualitative analysis of food industry framing in WHO consultations, Globalization and Health, 16(1): 115. doi: 10.1186/s12992-019-0531-5

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCambridge, J., Mialon, M. and Hawkins, B. (2018) Alcohol industry involvement in policymaking: a systematic review, Addiction, 113(9): 157184. doi: 10.1111/add.14216

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moerschel, K.S. (2020) MSc Project Report: Media Coverage of Sugar Taxation in Germany: A Qualitative Framing Analysis, MSc thesis, London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moerschel, K.S., von Philipsborn, P., Hawkins, B. and McGill, E. (2021) Concepts of responsibility in the German media debate on sugar taxation: a qualitative framing analysis, European Journal of Public Health, doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckab200.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Niederdeppe, J., Gollust, S.E., Jarlenski, M.P., Nathanson, A.M. and Barry, C.L. (2013) News coverage of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes: pro- and anti-tax arguments in public discourse, American Journal of Public Health, 103(6): e92e98. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300812

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nixon, L., Mejia, P., Cheyne, A., Wilking, C., Dorfman, L. and Daynard, R. (2015a) ‘We’re part of the solution’: evolution of the food and beverage industry’s framing of obesity concerns between 2000 and 2012, American Journal of Public Health, 105(11): 222836. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302819

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nixon, L., Mejia, P., Cheyne, A. and Dorfman, L. (2015b) Big Soda’s long shadow: news coverage of local proposals to tax sugar-sweetened beverages in Richmond, El Monte and Telluride, Critical Public Health, 25(3): 33347. doi: 10.1080/09581596.2014.987729

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • O’Brien, B.C., Harris, I.B., Beckman, T.J., Reed, D.A. and Cook, D.A. (2014) Standards for reporting qualitative research: a synthesis of recommendations, Academic Medicine, 89(9): 124551.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Petticrew, M., Katikireddi, S.V., Knai, C., Cassidy, R., Hessari, N.M., Thomas, J. and Weishaar, H. (2017) ‘Nothing can be done until everything is done’: the use of complexity arguments by food, beverage, alcohol and gambling industries, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 71(11): 107883. doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-207644

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Purtle, J., Langellier, B. and Lê-Scherban, F. (2018) A case study of the Philadelphia sugar-sweetened beverage tax policymaking process, Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 24(1): 48. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000563

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rein, M. and Schön, D. (1996) Frame-critical policy analysis and Frame-reflective policy practice, Knowledge and Policy, 9(1): 85104. doi: 10.1007/BF02832235

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rowbotham, S., McKinnon, M., Marks, L. and Hawe, P. (2019) Research on media framing of public policies to prevent chronic disease: a narrative synthesis, Social Science and Medicine, 237: 112428. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112428

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Saldaña, J. (2016) First cycle coding methods, in J. Saldaña, The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers, 3rd edn, London: Sage, pp 67210.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schaller, K. and Mons, U. (2018) Steuer auf zuckerhaltige Getränke und Einflussnahme der Industrie zur Verhinderung regulatorischer Maßnahmen, Ernahrungs Umschau, 65(2): M82M89.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scheufele, D.A. (1999) Framing as a theory of media effects, Journal of Communication, 49(1): 103122. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1999.tb02784.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scott, C. and Nixon, L. (2018) The shift in framing of food and beverage product reformulation in the United States from 1980 to 2015, Critical Public Health, 28(5): 60618. doi: 10.1080/09581596.2017.1332756

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • The GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators (2017) Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years, New England Journal of Medicine, 377(1): 1327. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomas-Meyer, M., Mytton, O. and Adams, J. (2017) Public responses to proposals for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages: a thematic analysis of online reader comments posted on major UK news websites, PLoS ONE, 12(11): e0186750. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186750

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, C.H. (1979) The many meanings of research utilization, Public Administration Review, 39(5): 42631. doi: 10.2307/3109916

  • World Cancer Research Fund (2020) Health-related food taxes, https://policydatabase.wcrf.org/level_one?page=nourishing-level-one#step2=2%23step3=315.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WHO (World Health Organization) (2015) Guideline: sugars intake for adults and children, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/149782/1/9789241549028_eng.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WHO (World Health Organization) (2016) Fiscal policies for diet and the prevention of noncommunicable diseases, http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/fiscal-policies-diet-prevention/en/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wright, A., Smith, K.E.K.E. and Hellowell, M. (2017) Policy lessons from health taxes: a systematic review of empirical studies, BMC Public Health, 17(1): 583. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4497-z

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zatonski, M., Hawkins, B. and McKee, M. (2018) Framing the policy debate over spirits excise tax in Poland, Health Promotion International, 33(3): 51524.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 1 Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Berlin Institute of Health, , Germany
  • | 2 LMU Munich and Pettenkofer School of Public Health, , Germany
  • | 3 University of Cambridge, , UK
  • | 4 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, , UK

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 41 41 37
Full Text Views 45 45 7
PDF Downloads 49 49 10

Altmetrics

Dimensions