Statement of CSPI Health Promotion Policy Director Jim O’Hara

New research adds to the body of evidence that soda warning labels can produce important public health gains. A study, conducted at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined the impact of warning labels—such as “Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay”—on the attitudes of adolescents. It found that warnings can reduce the perception that sugar drinks are healthy or increase energy or focus. The research also provides preliminary evidence that warnings can affect young people’s intentions to buy sugar drinks. This study builds on earlier research that found warning labels may deter parents from buying sugar drinks for their children.

Providing this kind of information is a classic public health intervention that has been used to minimize environmental exposure to toxins, increase sanitation to prevent food-borne illnesses, and reduce the use of tobacco products. It’s time to use this public health tool in the fight against soda-related diseases.