Key Studies Public Acceptability

Public acceptability of nudging and taxing to reduce consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and food

Smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol and unhealthy snacks are leading causes of years of life lost globally. Promising interventions include nudging – changes to the physical environment to “nudge” people toward healthier behaviours – and taxation. Implementing such interventions often requires government intervention, which is made more likely by public support. We examined support for these interventions in a survey with an experimental design involving 7058 English adults.

Overall 60% supported these policies with support varying by policy and behaviour. Putting graphic warning labels on products received strongest support (from 78%), followed by reducing product size (59%), then taxing the product (57%), and finally reducing the availability of the product (47%).

To read the findings of the study in full, click here.

Reynolds, J. P., Archer, S., Pilling, M., Kenny, M., Hollands, G. J., & Marteau, T. M. (2019). Public acceptability of nudging and taxing to reduce consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and food: A population-based survey experiment.

Does communicating evidence of policy effectiveness influence public support for the policy?

In a new paper investigating public acceptability for policy interventions to improve health (published in Social Science and Medicine 4th October, 2018), researchers tested ways to communicate quantitative evidence of the effectiveness of a hypothetical tax on confectionery to help tackle childhood obesity.

The study comprised of a series of experiments, involving nearly 10,000 people. Researchers used results obtained from the first two experiments to improve their infographics and accompanying numerical information provided to study participants in the succeeding experiment. The third experiment, using the improved materials, consequently showed increased support for the hypothetical tax, equivalent to increasing the number who support the tax from 45% to 49%. Click on the read more button for further details about this study.

Communicating quantitative evidence of policy effectiveness and support for the policy: Three experimental studies. Reynolds JP, Pilling M, Marteau TM. Soc Sci Med.

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How does the public judge nudging to cut sugary drinks?

How does the public judge nudging to cut sugary drinks?

How acceptable do people find nudges such as reducing bottle sizes of sugary drinks to prevent obesity? Does highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudging affect their acceptability? The results of our recent study published 8th June, 2016, conducted with over 2000 UK and USA participants, show that most people find such “nudges” to be acceptable interventions to prevent obesity.

Although, highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudges does not alter their acceptability, the study found that taxing sugary drinks, was only acceptable to a minority. But for both nudging and taxing, the acceptability of the intervention increased the more effective participants judged them to be. This suggests people are prepared to trade off dislike of an intervention for achieving a valued goal, such as tackling obesity.

Public acceptability in the UK and USA of nudging to reduce obesity: the example of reducing sugar-sweetened beverages consumption. Petrescu DC, Hollands GJ, Couturier DL, Ng YL, Marteau TM.

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