Evidence-related framing in the German debate on sugar taxation: A qualitative framing analysis and international comparison
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 to 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, e.g. 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 spill-over 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.