MEXICO CITY—The leader of a country with the highest rate of obesity wants to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. As reported by McClatchy, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto has proposed a tax that would cost consumers an extra 7.6 cents for every liter of soft drinks, sports drinks or sugary beverage they purchase.
The tax would represent roughly 10% of the cost of a soda bottle, according to the news report, which cited the head of a consumer watchdog group. The idea is to reduce consumption of drinks that are said to contribute to obesity. Nieto is particularly interested in reducing childhood obesity through reduced consumption of sugary drinks.
In 2011, in an effort to curb childhood obesity, Mexico set limits on what schools could sell during recess including banning the sale of soft drinks and removing 90% of fried foods from vendor offerings.
But Mexicans have an insatiable thirst for sugary beverages: They drink 163 liters annually, representing the highest volume in the world, Juan Rivera, director of the research center on nutrition and health at Mexico's National Public Health Institute, told CNN in an article that was published on July 17.
Nieto's proposal was submitted to Congress after a United Nations report divulged over the summer that Mexico has topped the United States with the highest percentage of obese adults. Nearly one third (32.8%) of adult Mexicans were obese in 2008, compared to 31.8% of Americans, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
A number of countries have imposed taxes on food and beverages to fight obesity, including Denmark, Finland, France and Hungary. But according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it is unknown how such taxes affect consumer behavior.
"Some may respond by reducing their consumption of healthy goods in order to pay for the more expensive unhealthy goods, thus defeating the purpose of the tax," OECD states in a 2012 report. "Others may seek substitutes for the taxed products, which might be as unhealthy as those originally consumed."