Target: Coca-Cola de Mexico President Brian Smith
Goal: Urge company to back down from criticisms of Mexican president’s plan to fight diabetes and obesity by taxing soda.
The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, recently announced a proposal for a one peso (7.8 US cent) per liter tax on sugared drinks. This is one step in a complex health program undertaken by the Mexican government in recent months, which also includes an initiative called “Wrestling Against Obesity,” that educates the public about healthful eating and exercise and the dangers of diabetes and obesity, through the popular sport lucha libre, or masked wrestling. A new video featuring the campaign’s star, “El Elegido” (The Chosen One), demonstrating his healthy diet and exercise routine, will air before AAA matches, and outside the arenas, health ministry officials will organize stands where willing participants can have their weight and body mass index measured and receive tips for making healthy lifestyle changes. In addition, the government has designed a series of subway advertisements for Mexico City aimed at educating capital city denizens about diabetes and the dangers associated with soft drink consumption, to encourage prevention of the behaviors that contribute significantly to diabetes and obesity.
This is by no means a gratuitous attack on the soda industry in Mexico; while sugar-addicted Americans drink an estimated 118 liters of soda per year, the average Mexican absorbs 163, putting Mexico firmly in first place in the world regarding sugary beverage consumption. A United Nations report says that Mexico also takes the cake in terms of obesity and diabetes, with 32.8 percent of its population considered obese (compared to 31.8 percent of US citizens) and 10.8 percent of Mexicans suffering from diabetes. Some, including Alejandro Calvillo, head of the consumer watchdog group Consumer Power A.C., insist that the tax should be expanded, as it amounts for only ten percent of the cost of a soft drink bottle. Expanding the tax would allow it to have a greater impact as a public health campaign. Roberta R. Friedman, the director of public policy at the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, has said of such a tax in the US that a “10 percent increase in the price should result in a 10 to 12 percent decrease in consumption,” and has linked cola consumption to greater incidence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
However, Coca-Cola de Mexico, sensing a disturbance in their greatest per-capita market – Mexicans drank almost twice the number of Coca-Cola beverages as Americans in 2011, to the tune of 728 eight-ounce drinks per person – unsurprisingly issued a criticism of the proposal in a recent statement. The company argued that “a tax on beverages is ineffective to combat a problem as complex as obesity,” saying rather obviously that to “change behaviors effectively, we need to ensure people understand that all calories count, regardless of the source — and that includes our caloric beverages too,” according to the Global Post. The Mexican government is already undertaking similar campaigns, and an argument by the Mexican Association of Soda Makers that the measure would reduce average caloric intake by 1.1 percent at best only reinforces Calvillo’s conviction that the tax should be increased. Coca-Cola de Mexico is pretending to share the government’s concern for the obesity epidemic while criticizing efforts to prevent unhealthful decisions via educational initiatives and taxes. The company ignores the concern for the diabetes epidemic, as it would undercut their argument, which is really bolstered by their capitalistic interest in the bottom line. Taxing soda and increasing health education are positive steps in reducing rates of obesity and diabetes, and Coca-Cola is prepared to stand in the way for the sake of their bottom line.
By signing this petition, you are condemning Coca-Cola de Mexico’s criticism of governmental efforts to prevent obesity and diabetes, by undermining educational initiatives and opposing the soda tax that will have a positive effect on the health of the population. Please encourage this company to retract its statement, and to refrain from campaigning further against proposals to encourage Mexicans to make healthier lifestyle decisions.
Dear President Smith,
I am extremely disappointed in Coca-Cola de Mexico’s recent criticism of President Peña Nieto’s soda tax proposal. Your interest in criticizing this proposal stems solely from a capitalistic interest in the strongest per-capita market in the world for Coca-Cola products; your company’s pretended interest in reducing average caloric intake and argument that “a tax on beverages is ineffective to combat a problem as complex as obesity” both ignore the impact of sugared drinks on the diabetes epidemic, and discount the importance of a tax as one step in a complex plan to prevent obesity and diabetes among Mexicans. While you have been concerned about your bottom line, the Mexican health ministry has been planning a campaign to encourage active lifestyles through the “Wrestling Against Obesity” initiative, and the government has been creating subway advertisements to educate Mexico City denizens about diabetes and the negative effects of excessive soft drink intake.
I urge you to retract your criticisms of the President’s recent proposed soda tax, as it is part of a complex preventative solution to what your company admits is a complex problem. I encourage you to refrain from campaigning against this and other efforts to improve the health of the Mexican citizenry, especially in such a way that discounts existing initiatives on which the government has been hard at work. I call on you to become a responsible company that puts the health and safety of its consumers before its bottom line.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Tran’s World Productions via Flickr