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AROUND the world, governments and beverage makers are locked in battle over taxes on sugary drinks. Hungary has been taxing them since 2011. In 2012 the French government introduced a tax on all drinks with added sugar or artificial sweetener, now €0.075 ($0.08) a litre. The Mexican government followed suit last year, with a tax of 1 peso ($0.06) a litre on all sugary drinks. Chile and the city of Berkeley, California introduced similar measures in January; Barbados followed suit in June and Dominica in September.

The drinks industry has won some victories too, seeing off proposals for taxes on sugar in several American states and persuading the Slovenian government to backtrack on plans to impose a 10% tax on sweetened drinks last year. In 2013 Denmark repealed its tax on soft drinks and ditched plans for a broader sugar tax.

Governments are adopting the taxes in the hope of trimming bulging waistlines and slowing the rise in diabetes, which cost taxpayers vast sums in spending on health care. Mexicans, for instance, are the fourth-biggest guzzlers of sugary drinks in the world, according to Euromonitor, a market-research firm. In 2012 more than 70% of Mexican adults and 34% of 5-11-year-olds were overweight. Diabetes is a growing problem: 12% of Mexicans have it, and it was behind 14% of all deaths in 2009. In response, the beverage industry argues that it is not the government’s business to decide what people should eat and drink. Pinning the blame for the world’s increasingly greedy and sedentary ways on sugary drinks is unfair, they add.

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