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Hacking of Mexico’s soda tax advocates is an attack on the health of all Mexicans

(February 15th, 2017, New York, USA) – Vital Strategies today condemned the hacking of phones belonging to leading advocates of Mexico’s soda tax. In the past three years, the targeted individuals and their organizations supported the introduction of Mexico’s soda tax, which has reduced consumption of sugary drinks. An analysis from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health is among the growing body of evidence confirming the success of the tax. At its current rate, the soda tax is expected to prevent almost 200,000 cases of diabetes and 20,000 heart attacks and strokes, saving almost 19,000 lives and $983 million international dollars, in the ten years following its introduction.

These Mexican advocates not only led efforts to defeat beverage industry efforts in 2015 to reduce by half the soda tax, but also called for further increases in the sugary beverage tax to deliver an even greater impact on public health. The hacking coincided with an advocacy effort, including a mass media campaign supported by Vital Strategies, to call for the soda tax to be doubled. That proposal was defeated in Mexico’s Parliament in November 2016, the same month that Mexico’s government declared diabetes a national emergency.

José Luis Castro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vital Strategies, said:

“We strongly condemn the hacking of health professionals and advocates involved in supporting Mexico’s soda tax. These individuals are acknowledged experts in their fields, whose only objective is to improve the health and the lives of every Mexican. We are proud to have supported their work, both on the soda tax and on advocating to restrict the soda industry’s ability to market to children. The only thing they threaten is the ability of the beverage industry to ride roughshod over health policy in Mexico.

“We would not be surprised if vested commercial interests, in their brazen attempts to put profit over health, have not had a hand in this foul play. It is so similar to the playbook we have seen adopted by the tobacco industry and others in their attempts to intimidate, counter and silence scientific and health experts on other issues. This cannot be allowed. Mexico’s soda tax will save tens of thousands of lives in the coming years, but the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages continues to contribute to Mexico’s public health emergency. Health professionals and advocates must be free to advocate for health policies that are backed by independent evidence and to speak without fear or favor. We call on the government to investigate this issue and ensure that health experts are not unfairly targeted in this way again.” 

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org