Trade, Tariffs, and Tooth Decay

How lower tariffs lead to people buying more soda.
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How lower tariffs lead to people buying more soda.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Global free trade has been blamed for a lot of ills of late. You can now add a surprising one to the list: increased consumption of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages. In the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers led by University of Oxford sociologist Ana Mendez Lopez analyzed sales of such drinks in 44 low- and middle-income countries between 2001 and 2014. They found lower tariffs substantially boosted imports, which, in turn, led to more people buying more soda. What’s more, the impact was substantial: Higher levels of imports accounted for about 40 percent of these nations’ overall rise in soft-drink consumption over the 13-year period. Given that these drinks have been linked to obesity, which, in turn, is associated with many medical problems, could it be that free trade is not just an economic issue, but one of public health?

Explore more stories from the March/April 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.