Jan 7, 2016

NY Times: Mexican Soda Tax Followed by Drop in Sugary Drink Sales via @anahadoconnor

NY Times: A tax on sugary drinks implemented in 2014 in Mexico appears to have had a significant impact: After one year, sales of sugary beverages in the country fell as much as 12 percent while bottled water purchases rose 4 percent, a new study found.

Public health authorities hailed the findings as the first hard evidence that a nationwide tax could spur behavioral changes that might help to chip away at high obesity rates. Some predicted that other countries that have been looking at Mexico as a test case would follow in the country's footsteps and implement their own taxes on sugar sweetened beverages.

"There are many countries in the region and other parts of the world that have been waiting on empirical evidence from Mexico to determine whether to implement similar measures," said Franco Sassi, head of the public health program at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, a research and policy group. "I think this is encouraging for all the countries that have been deciding whether to use this measure. This is a demonstration that it works."

Mexico's obesity epidemic has attracted worldwide attention. Of the 34 developed countries that are members of the O.E.C.D., Mexico has the highest rate of adults who are overweight or obese — about 70 percent — and the highest rate of Type 2 diabetes. It also has the highest per capita intake of soft drinks, which account for 70 percent of the total added sugars consumed by the average Mexican.

Public health advocates in Mexico led an effort to levy a nationwide tax on sugary drinks in 2013, which was widely endorsed and supported by medical groups. After fierce debate and opposition from the food and beverage industry, Mexico's government passed a 1-peso per liter sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that went into effect on the first day of January 2014. The tax amounted to a roughly 10 percent price increase on soft drinks, half of what health advocates had been calling for.

The tax was part of a broad anti-obesity program with other measures that also went into effect later in 2014, including healthier school meals, food labels with clearer nutrition information and a ban on certain junk food ads aimed at children.

Please read full By ANAHAD O'CONNOR Follow @anahadoconnor