By Margot Sanger-Katz
In the first year of a big soda tax in Mexico, sales of sugary drinks fell. In the second year, they fell further, according to new research.
The finding represents the best evidence to date of how sizable taxes on sugary drinks, increasingly favored by large American cities, may influence consumer behavior. The results could have consequences for public health.
Mexico’s soda tax took effect in 2014, and applied to all beverages that included added sugar, including carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened iced teas. The effort was pushed by public health advocates who argued that liquid sugar was contributing to the country’s high burden of obesity and diabetes.
Studies on the first year of the tax found that sugary beverage consumption fell substantially, with the biggest decreases among low-income Mexicans — the group at highest risk of obesity-related diseases. But industry analysts and anti-tax advocates had argued that the one-year results could just be a blip that would reverse as companies retooled their products, or as consumers adjusted to higher prices for their favorite drinks.
The new study, published online Wednesday in Health Affairs, shows that the results of such a tax may be far more long-lasting. The research, based on shopping data from a large sample of urban Mexican households, showed that the first year’s consumption declines continued during the second year.