Opinion / Trends / Gums & Mints

Should Mexico be taxing gum?

Officials propose 50% tax on chewing gum to offset costs of cleaning streets

crystal lindell
Crystal Lindell

On the surface the idea that Mexico would be worried about chewing gum inappropriately discarded on the streets is kind of absurd.

You know Mexico, right? That country just south of the United States that’s been dealing with some bigger problems lately, like drugs, and murder.

Well, according to an article in El Universal (translated into English), the country’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)  has  proposed a federal tax of 50% on chewing gum. Apparently, the money is needed to help clean up all the gum people spit out on the streets.

The Huffington Post reports that, “Mexicans consume 2.5 pieces of gum per day. The average cleanup in Mexico City is 70 [gum pieces] per square meter. And in a single day, the cost of cleanup of the Zocalo amounts to approximately 2,800 pesos.”

This apparently leads to bigger issues than messing up your shoes. As the Huffington Post notes, “chewed gum can be a health hazard since it can contain over 50 thousand germs and transmittable diseases.”

Maybe someone in Mexico thought that literally cleaning up the streets of Mexico would lead to figuratively cleaning up the streets of Mexico. Maybe someone important in Mexico had  just stepped in gum while wearing a brand new pair of shoes. Or maybe, someone in Mexico is just desperately trying to find ways to raise money that doesn’t involve selling their soul to the cartels.

Or maybe this is all about the old business concept of low-hanging fruit — start with a small problem you know you can fix, so you can gain confidence to tackle the bigger issues.

Whatever the inspiration, I can’t help but think of the film, Pretty Woman. You remember the scene? When Julia Roberts, who plays a hooker in the film (yes, a hooker), spits her gum out at a rich lady in Beverly Hills, and her “client” (a.k.a. the guy paying her for her umm, “womanly services”) chastises her for it. Because obviously that’s a bigger problem than the fact that the lady he loves sells her body for money. Natch.

I’m not informed enough to know whether the streets of Mexico are littered with so much gum as to be on par with comparable sin taxes in the United States, such as taxing cigarettes to pay cancer-related costs.

Regardless though, I can tell you that if the real goal here is to eliminate gum litter, it would be more prudent to run education initiatives about the dangers of spitting gum out mid-street.

Like any modern public service campaign, it could include lots of fun catch phrases, like, “Wrap it up before you spit it out” and “Trash cans love the taste of your old gum” or “Help your mom avoid stepping in gum, spit it out in the trash.”

And, of course, the campaign would include lots of information about the 50,000 germs and transmittable diseases could be highlighted in each brochure, which could include peel off sections for people to wrap their gum in. I bet Trident, one of the top sellers of gum in Mexico, would even pay for a campaign like that, if it meant avoiding the tax.

Even better, make it fashionable for people to spit their gum somewhere besides the street. I’m envisioning Hello Kitty and Batman gum tins people can carry around with them to spit their gum into. Made and marketed by Trident, of course.

From where I’m sitting and chewing, all of these make more sense that taxing gum. Oh yea, doesn’t chewing gum raise your IQ? Hmmm.

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