The Bloomberg Philanthropies Obesity Prevention Program is addressing the global epidemic by raising public awareness of the problem and supporting policies to prevent the rise of obesity in Mexico, which currently has the highest rate of obesity among the world’s most populous countries. The foundation’s strategy employs a number of approaches including; support for banning advertising aimed at children for junk food and sugary beverages; raising taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, removing unhealthy food from schools and increasing consumer knowledge to understand nutrition labels.
Mexico implemented a 1 peso per liter excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages on January 1, 2014, and a previous study found a 6% reduction in purchases of taxed beverages in 2014. In this newly released study, Health Affairs estimated changes in beverage purchases for 2014 and 2015.
They found that purchases of taxed beverages decreased 5.5% in 2014 and 9.7% in 2015, yielding an average reduction of 7.6% over the study period. Moreover, low-income households had the largest decreases in purchases of taxed beverages in both years.
In the two years since the tax has been in effect, people in Mexico are purchasing fewer sugary drinks, with greater reductions in the second year compared to the first year. In a statement released today, Mike Bloomberg said, “The results couldn’t be clearer: Mexico’s tax on sugary drinks is working. That’s great news for the country’s health, and it adds momentum to the growing push for similar policies in cities and countries around the world. It’s one of the best steps governments can take to fight the rising obesity epidemic.”
Findings from Mexico may encourage other countries to use fiscal policies to reduce consumption of unhealthy beverages along with other interventions to reduce the burden of chronic disease.