Around the globe, people have gained massive amounts of weight, obesity is rampant and diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. So what are we gonna do about this health emergency? Some governments are trying to start with extra taxes on soft drinks. Mexico, in trying to collect an extra 8 cents per liter (a peso), has met with heated opposition.
According to Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, “Mexico is a classic example of a country in ‘nutrition transition.’ As the economy improves, people increasingly buy high-calorie ready-made foods, put on weight, and raise their risk for diabetes. Meanwhile, the poorer segments of the population continue to experience high levels of stunting, iron-deficiency anemia and vitamin A deficiency.”
Mexico is a leading grower of sugarcane, so soft drinks filled with sugar are cheap. As Nestle points out, the Mexicans often buy huge 3-liter bottles that cost less than bottled water.
In response to the proposed peso tax, the Mexican Beverage Association and the sugarcane industry have started advertising campaigns to convince Mexicans that the new measure is misguided and will cost jobs.
At the same time, public health advocates who have received support from Bloomberg Philanthropies (linked to Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York) have been plastering Mexico City with ads in favor of the tax. The television industry in Mexico won’t carry pro-tax ads because of pressure from the soft drink industry.
Both sides recognize that the diet and obesity crisis is dragging down the health of Mexicans at an alarming rate. Nearly three in four Mexicans are overweight or obese and more than one of seven already has diabetes. The government is expected to vote on the proposed soft drink tax within the next two months.