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Study Reveals Impacts of Mexico’s Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax After One Year

January 6, 2016
Gillings School of Global Public Health

A new study co-led by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health is the first comprehensive, peer-reviewed study to examine the immediate effects of Mexico’s tax on all non-alcoholic beverages containing added sugar.

The full study, titled “Beverage purchases from stores under the Mexican sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax: A year out,” is available online in the January issue of the British Medical Journal.

Key findings include:

  • There was a six percent average decline in purchases of taxed beverages during 2014, reaching a 12 percent reduction by December of that year. This translates to an average of 4.2 fewer liters of sugar sweetened beverages purchased per person in 2014.
  • The tax had the greatest impact among lower socioeconomic households, with a nine percent average decline in purchases of sugary drinks over 2014 and a 17 percent decline by December.
  • The purchase of untaxed beverages increased by four percent overall, primarily driven by an increase in bottled water purchases. This suggests that consumers are substituting healthier beverages in place of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Barry Popkin
Barry Popkin

Preliminary results from this study were released in June 2015. That information, which examined data on household purchases of beverages in Mexico after the tax implementation, was crucial in guiding the Mexican government’s decision to continue the tax.

As the complete, peer-reviewed study now reveals, the success of the tax in its first year shows promise for similar measures currently being enacted in parts of the United States and around the world.


Barry M. Popkin, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of nutrition, and Shu Wen Ng, associate professor of nutrition, are study co-authors from the Gillings School. They worked with colleagues from Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health (INSP) and UNC’s Carolina Population Center on the study, which was funded by long-term support to INSP and UNC by Bloomberg Philanthropies along with supplementary funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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