Soda Tax Hailed As Key To Cutting Obesity Has Zero Impact

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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One of the most radical measures taken to tackle obesity has had no impact on the amount of calories people consume.

Mexico, one of the world’s fattest countries, imposed a six-cents-per-liter tax on high-sugar drinks like soda in January 2014.

The move was hailed as bold step to tackle obesity and drew support from media outlets like The New York Times and public health lobby groups like the Obesity Action Coalition.

But new data suggests that while the tax does hike prices in the grocery store, it has little success slimming waistlines.

According to the preliminary study titled “Taxing Calories in Mexico,” researchers found almost all of the tax hike was passed to consumers. But to the disappointment of anti-sugar advocates, “the evidence shows that the effects of the Mexican taxes on calories consumed in-home are very small.” The study uses a data set of 8,000 households.

The study adds that the impact of soda taxes hits lower-income households hardest because they spend a larger proportion of their income on groceries than the rich.

Identifying the causes of obesity is increasingly difficult after a study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found there is no correlation between the amount of junk food people eat and their body mass index.

In fact, obese people and those deemed as having a healthy weight ate on average the same amount, according to the study published in the journal Obesity Science & Practice.

The researchers criticize previous studies linking fast food to obesity because they are skewed by the extremely obese at one end of the spectrum and the chronically underweight on the other.

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Guy Bentley