US states have introduced bills requiring sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to display health warning labels. This study examined how such labels may influence parents and which labels are most impactful.
In this study, 2381 demographically and educationally diverse parents participated in an online survey. Parents were randomly assigned to 1 of 6 conditions: (1) no warning label (control); (2) calorie label; or (3–6) 1 of 4 text versions of a warning label (eg, Safety Warning: Drinking beverages with added sugar[s] contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay). Parents chose a beverage for their child in a vending machine choice task, rated perceptions of different beverages, and indicated interest in receiving beverage coupons.
Regression analyses controlling for frequency of beverage purchases were used to compare the no warning label group, calorie label group, and all warning label groups combined. Significantly fewer parents chose an SSB for their child in the warning label condition (40%) versus the no label (60%) and calorie label conditions (53%). Parents in the warning label condition also chose significantly fewer SSB coupons, believed that SSBs were less healthy for their child, and were less likely to intend to purchase SSBs. All P values <.05 after correcting for multiple comparisons. There were no consistent differences among different versions of the warning labels.
Health warning labels on SSBs improved parents’ understanding of health harms associated with overconsumption of such beverages and may reduce parents’ purchase of SSBs for their children.