Mexico had a problem – the country’s obesity rate is the second highest in the world, with only America topping the scales. So the government decided that something had to be done; something drastic.
One year ago, that drastic something happened; a tax was put on sugary, fizzy drinks. It was one of the highest ‘sugar taxes’ in the world (matching the obesity levels it was brought in to fight), but it worked; purchases of fizzy pop is down 12 percent. And the knock on effect of that is that it’s the poorest in the country – the ones who can’t afford access to good healthcare – who are benefiting the most.
Other governments have been reluctant to implement such a tax, even though obesity is putting a strain on healthcare (especially in the UK where our National Health Service is ‘free at the point of use’), and can even mean that the least well off people simply cannot afford to get well.
Mexico didn’t stop at fizzy drinks; the government created ‘sin taxes’ on lots of other goods that have been proven to be bad for health, including alcohol and tobacco. It may seem like an extreme move, but studies suggest that half of the entire population of the United States of America will be obese within 10 years. And that means that more people will fall prey to diseases caused by obesity such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. This trend is repeating all over the first world, and despite education and plenty of information, people love their soft drinks, and that includes all the sugar too. So is a hefty tax the only way to show people that the health system and the government mean business?
The problem with sugary drinks is that the calories in them are ‘empty calories’. That means that they serve no purpose, they don’t give any energy or do anything for the body other than to help it pile on the pounds. A biscuit might have the same number of calories as a soft drink, but at least it does something to fill the stomach – drinking a soft drink won’t fill you up, so you’ll still need something to eat, and that really is just doubling up on the bad stuff.