As we reported earlier, Mexico's soda tax has resulted in a drop in sugar consumption. But is it the government's place to tell you what to drink?
We recently reported that Mexico’s peso-per-liter tax on sodas and sugary beverages had led to a significant decline in the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages after only one year.
According to a report from MedPage Today, the nation witnessed an average of 12 percent decline in the purchase of such beverages, nearly double the projected reduction when the tax went into effect on January 1, 2014. While the tax may have achieved the goal of reducing sugar consumption, is it really the job of the government to tell people what kind of beverages to drink?
It’s no secret that soda and beverages with added sugar are bad for you. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that soft drinks have been known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a wide range of other chronic conditions for the millions of Americans that choose to drink them each day. By drinking just 1 to 2 cans of soda each day, researchers say, people increase their type 2 diabetes risk by nearly 26 percent.
A different study showed that of a sample of 40,000 men who drank just one can of a sugary drink per day over the course of 20 years had a 20 percent higher risk of suffering and dying from a heart attack. A similar study, which followed 80,000 women for a 22-year window, found that one can of sugary soft drink was enough to increase the risk of gout by as much as 75 percent.
Public health officials have been warning about the adverse effects of soda and other sugary beverages for decades. Soda drinkers are often heavier and have unhealthy dietary habits, and the risk of diabetes and heart disease posed by such beverages creates significant strain on public health systems. Such beverages lack essential nutrients, and appear to create more problems than they solve.
But should we rely on the government to set the price for products they find to be unhealthy? The recent study from UNC researchers demonstrated a decline in soda sales following the implementation of the tax, but was unable to demonstrate any measures of improved public health as a result.
Public health agencies face a powerful sugary beverage bottling industry in their effort to educate consumers on the adverse effects of soda, and informational campaigns are often drowned out by flashy advertisements that keep sodas flying off the shelves. On one hand, allowing regulators to dictate the availability of certain products presents a serious threat to personal choice and freedom. On the other hand, regulators attempting to protect consumers from unhealthy products may not be the biggest problem we face.
A press release from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill describing the recent study on the effects of Mexico’s soda tax can be found here.