School of Public Policy Capstones

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In 2014 Mexico implemented a national tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) as a public health strategy. Over the last decades, obesity has significantly increased among adolescents (12-19 years). In addition, the consumption of high-energy beverages among adolescents more than doubled from 1999 to 2006. The current study investigates the relationship between the SSBs tax and the caloric soda consumption in the Mexican adolescent population utilizing cross-sectional data from two nationally representative nutrition surveys. One from 2012 which took place before the tax was implemented and one conducted in 2016, two years after tax implementation.

Results show a positive association between the SSBs tax and the caloric intake among Mexican adolescents. Descriptive statistics show that within the physical state categories, only normal weight adolescents cut their soda intake by an average of 29.3 mL or 11.3 percent per day relative to the 2012 survey. When analyzed by gender, only normal weight female adolescents show a statistically significant drop in soda consumption of 17.2 percent relative to 2012. Although male adolescents consume larger volumes of soda per day, a soda consumption plunge was only significant for the overall female population. The average female soda consumption was found to be 189.4 mL per day after tax implementation, a decline of 33.3 mL or 15 percent relative to the 2012 survey. The only geographical region that showed a statistically significant decrease in soda consumption was the south, suggesting that geographical location has an impact on the tax effectiveness. In addition, a statistically significant decrease in soda consumption was observed in the urban areas but not in the rural areas.

Importantly, the biggest drop in daily soda intake was observed among the adolescents in the lowest socioeconomic status group by quintiles. Adolescents in this group cut their soda consumption by an average of 67.7 mL per day or by 30 percent relative to the 2012 survey (99% CI; 33.1-102.3, p 0.0001). A differences-in-differences (DD) estimator utilizing milk (untaxed product) as a control finds a drop in caloric soda intake among the very low socio-economic quintile group of 49 mL or 22 percent relative to the 2012 survey.

Key policy recommendations include increasing the transparency and accountability of the tax revenue in order to focus more resources on the treatment and prevention of overweight, obesity and diabetes, particularly among male adolescents who appear to be less responsive to the tax. Additionally, healthy foods subsidies and rebates should be evaluated as a companion to the SSBs policy, considering that study results show that the lower income groups are most impacted by the tax.

Further dietary evaluations among different age groups and demographics are necessary to observe the casual relationship between the SSBs Tax, the Mexican dietary patterns and long-term population health outcomes.