Mexico’s sugar tax seems to be working, according to a new study studied in the journal BMJ. After one year, sales of sugary beverages fell by as much as 12 percent while bottled water purchases rose by 4 percent.
“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,” Franco Sassi, head of the public health program at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, a research and policy group, told The New York Times. “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.”
To analyze whether the one peso-per liter sales tax truly did cause Mexicans to drink fewer soft drinks, a team of researchers from Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica, a federal health agency, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compared sales data before and after the tax was implemented. They looked at purchasing patterns in more than 6,000 households across 53 large Mexican cities.
The researchers found that sugary beverage sales fell an average of 6 percent in 2014, and that the decline accelerated over time, reaching a 12 percent drop by December 2014. The decline was seen across all socioeconomic groups, but it was greatest among people who were low income, whose consumption had fallen 17 percent.
“In the area of obesity prevention and control, there are not many examples of measures that actually work,” Dr. Juan A. Rivera, one of the study’s authors and the director of the Center for Research in Nutrition at the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica, told the Times. “But these findings suggest that the tax is working and that it’s reducing the intake of sugar sweetened beverages. This is really important for Mexico and for the world.”
More to come: Wars over soda taxes may be coming to a polling place near you.