Regulation of Vice – Sugar Tax a la Mexico? Correlation to Diminished Consumption
Dr K K Aggarwal and Dr S S Agarwal
Delhi has followed Mexico City’s footsteps in curbing vehicle circulation to reduce pollution. Will India now follow with the taxation of sugar?
As reported in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) a Mexican peso-per liter tax on sugary drinks implemented in January 2014 reduced consumption, specifically a 6% decline in purchase of these beverages within a year, with increased price by 10%.
This grew to a 12% decline in the final month of the year, mostly amongst lower income strata. Chile, Barbados, and France have also implemented sugar beverage taxes with the UK now considering it, and Mexico has further imposed taxes on other sugar-laden junk foods.
Like India, prevalence of diabetes is amongst the highest in the world in Mexico, with around 70% of adults being overweight or obese. Clearly regulation of vices such as cigarettes through increased costs have led to intended benefits world over of lower consumption as well. A new report in The Lancet has estimated that reducing sugar content in sugar sweetened drinks by 40% over 5 years could prevent half a million people from becoming overweight and a million people from becoming obese.
With India being the diabetes capital of the world – what’s different here? Consumption of sweetened beverages has proliferated to the masses, but diet is also compromised through traditional sweets, spiking during festival seasons, and adulteration is rampant. Should the definition be made broader in India to include all value added products including sugar like white maida and white rice?