In Mexico, a Soda Tax Success Story
A victory in the war against obesity and attendant diseases is worth emulating
One of the world’s highest soda taxes appears to be working. After just one year, purchases of sugary drinks in Mexico are down 12 percent, a new study shows. Even better, the biggest reductions have occurred among the poor, who can least afford health care. Sugary drinks are a primary driver of obesity, and Mexico’s obesity rate is the second-highest in the developed world, trailing only that of the U.S. Other governments— including America’s—should be encouraged to impose similar taxes and take other strong actions to curb soda drinking.
Obesity is becoming a global epidemic, and it’s catching governments flat-footed. Some have encouraged children to exercise and eat healthy foods—worthwhile advice. Others have conducted weight-loss competitions. Yet the epidemic worsens. Without bolder actions, the spread of diabetes and other weight-related diseases will continue.
The results of the Mexico study (which was funded in part by Bloomberg Philanthropies) are encouraging but not surprising. Raising the price of alcohol and tobacco through so-called sin taxes, which almost all governments do, has proved to be an effective way to discourage their use. More study of Mexico’s tax is still needed, particularly about what impact, if any, the decline in soda sales has had on obesity. But the initial evidence should lead others to seriously consider adopting similar taxes.
Sugary drinks should also be eliminated from the federal food stamps program. Every dollar a family spends on cola is a dollar that can’t be spent on carrots. Sugary drinks are the very definition of empty calories, providing no sustenance and doing nothing to alleviate hunger. A taxpayer-financed nutrition program shouldn’t leave people both hungry and sick. People need to eat more peas and broccoli and consume far less sugar, and they’ll have more success doing that if sugary drinks are taxed rather than subsidized. <BW>