Aiming to curb unhealthy consumption habits, Mexico’s Congress on Thursday approved new taxes on sugary drinks and junk food. Lawmakers approved a tax of one peso per liter, or about 8 cents, on soft drinks and an 8 percent sales tax on high-calorie foods, including potato chips, sweets and cereal. President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to sign the taxes into law in January.
Mexicans have always loved to eat and drink, but rapidly changing dietary habits have created a nation in danger of eating themselves to death. Mexican schoolchildren are now some of the fattest in the world, with one in three classified as overweight or obese – a 27 percent rise in 12 years, according to the latest National Survey of Health and Nutrition. Their parents also score high on global ranking tables – weighing in second behind only the United States.
Among adults, a staggering 73 percent of women are overweight or obese; men are only marginally thinner, with 69 percent “abnormally” sized. The National Survey reveals what is obvious to even an untrained eye: people of a “normal” or healthy weight are becoming a rare breed in this food-obsessed country. Mexico’s biggest killers are now cardiovascular diseases – including heart failure, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and strokes – and diabetes. Together these accounted for 150,000 deaths in 2012, according to World Health Organisation figures.
Diabetes is the number one killer in Mexico, the chronic health condition a direct result of the obesity issue the country also struggles with. In fact, approximately two-thirds of the total nation’s population are classified as overweight or obese, reports Mexican news syndicate Aljazeera, with most of the issue stemming from lifestyle and eating habits.
The obesity epidemic in Mexico has been ongoing for almost a decade; in 2007, the nation’s health secretary, Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, estimated the incidence of diabetes would rise by approximately 40 percent by 2012, killing as many as 100,000 Mexicans annually. His numbers were not far off, with diabetes claiming the lives of approximately 70,000 Mexicans a year, according to a 2012 report from McClatchy.