Global efforts to reduce soda consumption through taxation meet fierce resistance from soda industry

The New York Times reports: public health organizations, including the W.H.O., cite soda taxes as one of the most effective policy tools for cutting consumption of what nutritionists call a “liquid candy” that has contributed to an epidemic of obesity and related health conditions around the world. Dr. Kathryn Backholer, an expert on the issue at Deakin University in Australia, said taxes on soda were “low-hanging fruit” in the fight against obesity, diabetes and other weight-related diseases because such drinks are easily categorized to tax and sensible to target because they “have little or no nutritional value.”

Dr. Backholer and other experts said the turning point for soda tax proponents came in 2014, when Mexico — Coca-Cola’s biggest consumer market by per capita consumption — approved a 10 percent tax.

Mexico also showcased how dirty the fight could get.

Last year, numerous advocates of a proposal to double Mexico’s tax to 20 percent received strings of upsetting and fraudulent texts from unknown numbers. One man got a message saying his daughter had been seriously injured; another found a text saying his wife was having an affair; a third received a link to a funeral home. Spyware was found on the phones. The proposal failed.

Elsewhere in the world, soda companies have assiduously worked their government connections and economic clout. In internal company emails leaked to an American watchdog group last year, Coke executives described strategies for winning over government ministers and other officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Portugal, and regions of Spain. [Continue reading…]

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