Article Text

Download PDFPDF

P27 Youth perspectives on soft drinks after the introduction of the UK soft drinks industry levy: a focus group study using reflexive thematic analysis
  1. Catrin Penn-Jones1,
  2. Tarra Penney2,
  3. Roxanne Armstrong-Moore1,
  4. Steven Cummins3,
  5. Martin White1
  1. 1Centre for Diet and Activity Research, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2School of Global Health, York University, Toronto, Canada
  3. 3Department of Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK


Background Soft drinks consumption is a key target area of the UK Childhood Obesity strategy, with 36% of young people reporting consuming sugary drinks 2–4 times per week. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) was implemented in the UK in April 2018 to help tackle this issue and is designed to incentivise the reformulation of eligible soft drinks. To date, no study has explored youth perspectives of the SDIL through primary qualitative research. Therefore, this study aimed to explore perceptions of sugary drinks and the SDIL among adolescents in the UK, following its implementation on 6th April 2018, to investigate perspectives on this policy from a key target group.

Methods Four focus groups were conducted between December 2018 - May 2019 with 23 participants aged 11–14 years from schools in Essex, UK. A semi-structured topic guide aimed to elicit perspectives on sugar, sugary drinks and the SDIL. We also included a group task to rank a selection of UK soft drinks based on their sugar content, aiming to elicit engaged discussion. Braun and Clarke’s reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyse the data inductively.

Results Four main themes were found during analysis: 1) Sugary drinks are bad for you, but young people still consume them, 2) Mixed awareness of and ambivalence towards the SDIL, 3) Marketing influences the perceptions of drinks, regardless of SDIL, and 4) Suggestions for additional, low agency interventions to reduce sugar consumption.

Conclusion Participants demonstrated high awareness that sugary drinks were detrimental to their health, however, this sometimes did not translate into holding positive views of the SDIL – a fiscal policy designed to reduce sugar in drinks. Marketing was a strong influence on consumption and the perception of drinks, sometimes unconsciously and independently of the SDIL. Interventions where participants had to do little to reduce their sugar consumption were preferred, implying that future policies should be constructed that require little engagement from young people to reduce their sugar consumption. High agency education-based interventions may be less appropriate, as participants already understand the negative consequences of excess sugar and SSB consumption.

  • soft drinks industry levy
  • focus groups
  • youth

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.