From Mexico to Switzerland, more countries are contemplating sugar tax

09 March 2017 Sugar

As Mexico’s sugar tax leads to a fall in consumption for a second year in a row since its inception, Switzerland explores the possibility of joining the over half a dozen other countries with a sugar tax already in place.

The Swiss canton of Vaud has proposed a new tax on soft drinks to fund dental care. The cantonal proposal combines the money raised by the sugar tax with a new social security tax of up to 0.06% of salaries. The tax on sugar drinks would fund 50% of dental care costs for young people up to the age of 18, except for orthodontics.

In addition, parents of newborns would receive some financial incentive towards dental insurance and adults would receive aid for significant dental care fees, based on their income. The sugar tax would be set at a maximum of 0.30 CHF per litre – around 0.10 CHF for a can – and will be discussed in Vaud’s parliament in June and presented to voters over the autumn this year.

Following Mexico’s footsteps

In 2014, the Mexican government introduced a tax on sugary drinks to fight the overweight/obesity epidemic affecting over 70% of the population. Two years down the road, an analysis of the sugary-drink purchases found that consumption dropped by 5.5% in the first year and fell by 9.7% in the second year – averaging 7.6% over the two-period year.

The sugar tax in Mexico has proven to have reduced sugary drink consumption significantly and its progress is being closely monitored by health experts worldwide, including those working in the areas of obesity, diabetes and oral disease. This is a huge win for advocates of the tax as more than 70% of the added sugar in the Mexican diet comes from sugar-sweetened drinks.

To date, 19 countries have introduced a sugar tax on food and drinks and more seem to be eager to join the them, as recommended by the World Health Organization in 2016 when they backed taxing sugary drinks by 20% or more to help reduce sugar consumption.

The role of industry

The sugar tax has received strong opposition from the food and beverage industry, who has lobbied hard to try and impede it. However, there are certain exceptions with some companies making commitments to reduce sugar within their products whilst maintaining taste. Policymakers and health experts are therefore advised to work together with industry to successfully reduce sugar consumption for better health.