From a Bloomberg editorial this weekend (excerpt):
Mexico's Soda Tax Success
One of the world’s highest soda taxes appears to be working. After just one year, purchases of sugary drinks in Mexico are down 12 percent, a new study shows. Even better, the biggest reductions have occurred among the poor, who can least afford health care.
Other governments -- including in the U.S. -- should be encouraged to impose similar taxes and take other strong actions to curb soda drinking.
Sugary drinks are among the primary drivers of obesity, and Mexico’s obesity rate is the second-highest in the developed world, trailing only the U.S. But increasingly, obesity is becoming a global epidemic -- and it’s catching governments flat-footed....
I'm on the record as saying we should tax sugar, and wonder of wonders, somebody's actually tried it. Here's another article looking at the issue (excerpt):
Sugar Is the New Public Health Enemy #1
Governments try to reduce consumption of the sweet stuff through guidelines and taxes.
On Thursday, the U.S. government issued a new version of its dietary guidelines, which include the new, concrete recommendation that people receive less than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake from added sugar.
This is far more specific than the 2010 edition of the guidelines, which simply said to “reduce the intake of calories … from added sugars,” with no particular numbers attached. Based on Americans’ increasing sugar intake over the past few decades, a more concrete goal might be helpful—between 1977 and 2010, Americans’ consumption of added sugars went up by 30 percent, according to the Obesity Society….
…But for the time being, the U.S. isn’t the only country trying to get people off the sweet stuff. David Cameron, the prime minster of the U.K., said on Thursday that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a sugar tax as a measure against the obesity crisis, the BBC reports. A paper by Public Health England, published in October 2015, recommended a tax of between 10 and 20 percent on “high-sugar products … such as on full-sugar soft drinks.” Though Cameron said he would “rather avoid” a tax, he also said, “What matters is we do make progress” on obesity.
The evidence suggests a tax would likely lead to progress—according to a recent study published in The BMJ, when Mexico implemented a tax on sugary beverages on January 1, 2014, purchases of the taxed beverages went down by 12 percent by December of that year.
Legislating sugar is a strategy that’s popped up in the U.S. as well—Berkeley, California, was the first U.S. city to implement a soda tax in March 2015. But no word yet on whether Berkeley residents are any closer than the rest of the country to meeting the new dietary guidelines….
I’m also on record as saying we should tax petrol too, and for the same reasoning; taxes on fossil fuel use are even more common. Dare I wish it?