New Soda Tax Makes Mexico a Leading Guardian of Public Health
This month the new government of Mexico made history. In the country that consumes more soda per capita than any in the world, the national Congress struck a major blow for public health by passing a one-peso-per-liter tax on soda and an 8 percent tax on junk food. Separate legislation now pending would devote some of the revenue to build water fountains in schools throughout the country. That would enable Mexico to pull off a fabulous piece of policy alchemy: turning soda packed with sugar into water full of … H2O.
On a recent trip to Mexico, PI’s Larry Cohen drew inspiration from the work by health advocates there. In a new piece in Huffington Post, he argues that the U.S. can learn a lot from our neighbor to the south—as well as from countries including Finland, Hungary and France that have passed similar measures.
My hope is that the audaciousness of Mexico's action also will trigger more activity here in the U.S. The big soda and food companies have increasingly been using racially charged divide-and-conquer tactics, suggesting that soda or junk-food taxes are a "nanny state" idea advanced by white liberals that will unfairly harm black and Latino families. Mexico's new law turns this idea on its head.
The legislation is a tremendous victory for an extraordinary coalition of health advocates led by El Poder del Consumidor—Consumer Power in English. This group is building a movement that can halt and reverse the epidemic of unnecessary and preventable chronic disease that results, in part, from the overmarketing and overconsumption of soda and junk food. The new taxes should cut consumption and help children get better access to the healthiest possible alternative: agua dulce (fresh water).
Actions like these can help build momentum for healthy change that may ripple out beyond the borders of Mexico. We hope public health leaders and advocates in the U.S. take note and join in similar efforts here.