In Mexico, its nothing out of the ordinary to take a two liter coke bottle with you fishing at five in the morning. The problem is, more than two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, and diabetes is affecting 50% of Mexicans. The government instituted a one-peso-per-liter (8 cent) tax on sugary drinks in January 2014 to help its people slim down. However this has barely made an impact. Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are now the top two causes of death in the country. 50,000 people in Mexico are blind because of diabetes, someone’s limb is amputated every seven minutes, and 66 people die each day from drinking sugary drinks. Making these statistics worse than in the United States.
Mexico spent more than $4 billion in 2012 in managing diabetes-related problems, including treatment, medical attention and research. The amount is, according to the survey, larger than the funding for social security, which covers 44 million Mexicans.
Mexico has long been a country that derives extraordinary pleasure from eating and drinking, and it hasn’t minded the consequences much either. Gordo or gorda, meaning “chubby”, is used by both wives and husbands as a term of endearment. Pudgy kids proudly bear the nickname gordito, as they tuck into snacks after school slathered with beans, cheese, cream and salsa. Perhaps for Mexicans the biggest problem is living next door to the United States, which means the fast food and super-sized culture has a particularly strong influence. So do the American food and drink giants who sell vast quantities south of the border and have already proven themselves proficient at fending off taxes and other forms of anti-obesity regulation in the United States.
In a country like Mexico where there is not much stigma attached to being overweight, there would probably be a stiff opposition to regulating consumers behaviour. Instead, the government should play up gluttony as a killer, as it does with cigarettes—especially in school, where a third of children are said to be obese—and literally scare people off their junk food.