Objectives: We examined news coverage of public debates about large taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to illuminate how the news media frames the debate and to inform future efforts to promote obesity-related public policy.
Methods: We conducted a quantitative content analysis in which we assessed how frequently 30 arguments supporting or opposing SSB taxes appeared in national news media and in news outlets serving jurisdictions where SSB taxes were proposed between January 2009 and June 2011.
Results: News coverage included more discrete protax than antitax arguments on average. Supportive arguments about the health consequences and financial benefits of SSB taxes appeared most often. The most frequent opposing arguments focused on how SSB taxes would hurt the economy and how they constituted inappropriate governmental intrusion.
Conclusions: News outlets that covered the debate on SSB taxes in their jurisdictions framed the issue in largely favorable ways. However, because these proposals have not gained passage, it is critical for SSB tax advocates to reach audiences not yet persuaded about the merits of this obesity prevention policy.