Cola wars head south of the border

On the heels of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent disastrous attempt to curtail consumption of large sugared soft drinks, Mexican officials have taken up the banner. Mexico is now the “fattest” large nation in the world with over 70% of adults overweight. Furthermore
the incidence of diabetes in Mexico now approaches 10%, and Mexico is now the 2nd largest
consumer of sugared drinks in the world. In addition to a public information campaign
educating the populace about the content of sugar in colas and other sweetened beverages, Mexico is proposing a 20% tax of the sale on these drinks in addition to its pre-existing 16% sales tax. The hope is that these measures will reduce consumption of sugared drinks and
improve the overall health of the Mexico’s inhabitants.

The Prescription Perspective: It seems that New York City is not the only location in which
politicians have good intentions but poor judgment. Legislating behavior has never been a
successful strategy, particularly when it concerns a basic human activity such as eating. Unlike
New York, Mexico’s education campaign is laudatory; however, it seems to focus primarily on the negative aspects of consuming excess carbohydrates and doesn’t emphasize positive
alternatives nearly enough. The cola companies aren’t particularly helpful either, since they combat these assaults on their revenue by either denying that consumption of sugared drinks is a major factor in obesity or pointing the finger at other offenders. Time will tell if Mexico’s approach makes a significant impact on its obesity/diabetes epidemic but at least Mexico seems to have gotten one thing right. The emphasis on education will likely be much more effective than any penalties they impose on the populace.

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