How one of the most obese countries on earth took on the soda giants
November 4, 2015 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Thanks, Blasdelb. Will be reading with interest. I'd like to add this interview: "Marion Nestle’s War on Soda," which includes this, from Nestle:
I live in New York and was surprised when major minority organizations supported the soda industry in its resistance to [Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s] soda size cap initiative. I learned that this support has a long history beginning in the early years of the Civil Rights movement, when African-Americans were pressing soda companies to hire them and to place advertisements in their publications.

I didn’t realize that Martin Luther King, on the night before his assassination, urged his followers to boycott Coca-Cola over job discrimination issues. Since obesity has become more prevalent in that community, the situation has gotten more complicated. Soft drink companies produce winners and losers in minority communities. I’m seeing evidence that health issues are becoming more important.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:29 AM on November 4, 2015

The study controlled for other factors affecting soda purchases, and found that compared with pre-tax trends, sales of taxed drinks fell by 6% in 2014. Sales of bottled water were up by 4%.

The decline started slowly but accelerated: by December 2014, soda sales were down 12% from December 2013. And the drop was greatest among the poorest Mexicans – by December they were buying 17% less sweetened soda than the year before. (Terrazas was right – the tax does affect the poor disproportionately. But so does diabetes.)

I have mixed feelings about using consumption taxes (as compared to other kinds of regulatory options) to target soft drinks, but this is the option they had and it seems to be working. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a common approach or not, and what the long term impact turns out to be.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The somewhat depressing tl;dr:
In 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies began a $10m, three-year programme in Mexico to reduce soda consumption.
Not to minimize the contributions of everybody else who worked for this, and seems to be having good outcomes so far, but it looks like the takeaway is access to lots of money tends to level the playing field.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:08 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

A couple of my co-workers are trying to quit soda, and I swear it's as hard as quitting cigarettes. For adults, I think that soda has kind of replaced coffee as the caffeine-delivery-system of choice, and with soda it comes with an added jolt of sugar for extra temporary energy. I think that consumption taxes could maybe help cut back on how much soda people drink, but as with all of this food politics stuff, I also think it's worth considering some of the underlying social forces that are driving consumption.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:26 AM on November 4, 2015

I knew this would be a worthwhile article as soon as I saw this was blasdelb posting. And it is. Thanks for the link.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I developed a pet theory when quitting sodas over many years-- I'm sensitive to caffeine, and don't enjoy it and I used to think it was a horrific predation on workers, but came to a peace observing exhausted parents to conclude it was invented to spare first-time parents certain doom. Anyway, I moved to Sprite and 7-Up, and then to "real" sugar and finally even less-sugary, natural fruit spritzers...

And, for me, I realized the primary addiction I had was to carbonation-- the sting it delivered all along the back of my mouth and throat. And the pet theory was surveying what beverages were carbonated across ages: soda and beer. I found it strange. That the "power" of both sugar and alcohol were delivered by the same "kick".
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:53 AM on November 4, 2015

If they can do it in Mexico -- where a soda company executive was elected president -- we can do it here in the US. Heck, collect the money and spend it subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables.
posted by miyabo at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2015

Soda in Mexico is a very selling item...Years ago I had gone into a very elegant restaurant in Mexico City, and there, at tables near me, where well dressed Mexicans, dining on very expensive meals, and sipping orange sodas!
Recall that then...maybe now...water in Mexico not always safe to drink.
posted by Postroad at 11:05 AM on November 4, 2015

I realized the primary addiction I had was to carbonation-- the sting it delivered all along the back of my mouth and throat.

I tested this. About ten years ago I decided to stop drinking soda and switched to mineral water. I did it overnight, after decades of consuming soda (I'm from Monterrey, a city in Mexico where the soda truck comes to your house as if it were milk). Then, about four years ago I stopped drinking mineral water altogether and now I just drink water. I had a sip of cocacola again, a couple of years ago, and found it repugnant.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:24 AM on November 4, 2015

I realized the primary addiction I had was to carbonation-- the sting it delivered all along the back of my mouth and throat.

Yeah, around 6 years ago my tastebuds decided sugar was gross, so I stopped drinking soda (and consuming sugary stuff altogether), but I still drink the hell out of some La Croix. (And beer to a lesser extent.) The carbonation is it for me.
posted by Huck500 at 12:10 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have mixed feelings about using consumption taxes

I empathise with this because consumption taxes, as taxes, are generally very regressive and they hit poor people more. But consumption taxes, as public policy in health, have an amazing track record and it has been proven time and time again that the public is very sensitive to price signals of this nature.

I think it's worth consoling yourself with the knowledge that these consumption taxes a) are generally avoidable and that the public do try to avoid them, and b) in many cases their revenue can be used at least partly on programs supporting people moving away from these substances.

Eg here in Australia, part of cigarette tax revenue goes to funding a serious of quit support initiatives and programs.
posted by smoke at 7:51 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think consumption taxes might be a good idea, but ideally combined with other things. For instance, here in Mexico (and I assume in many other places), you can almost always get the regular, sugar-heavy soda in larger bottles (and thus more cheaply) than the sugar free diet versions. So for instance, regular Coke is available in 2.5-liter and even in some cases 3-liter bottles, while the biggest Coke Zero or Diet Coke bottles I've ever seen here are 2-liter bottles, and stores some times don't even bother to stock those.

Some regulation of bottle sizes and a requirement to stock equivalent sizes of the regular and diet version, plus perhaps the diet version having to be cheaper at the same size, might be in order, although I'm not sure how easy it would be to enforce.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:51 PM on November 4, 2015

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