After the deaths of 60,000 people in Mexico’s war on drugs, a presidential election rife with accusations of fraud, abject poverty and a serious economic disparity, now a deputy with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is finally rolling up his sleeves and attacking one of the country’s most serious problems, which no one else dares to address: chewing gum.
According to the Mexican newspaper, El Universal, PRI deputy, Juan Manuel Diez Francos, has finally moved forward and proposed a federal tax of 50 percent on chewing gum, or chicle as it is known in Mexico. He says the chewing gum tax would help pay for the cleaning of chewing gum that people spit out in public places like sidewalks, plazas and parks. As it stands now, he says, the government spends an average of 2 pesos and 50 cents on every piece of gum it un-sticks from these public areas. The cheapest pack of chicle costs only 50 cents.
It might sound like a trivial issue, but Mexican’s love their gum. It is the second largest consumer of gum after the U.S. according to Kraft Foods. There are 92 thousand tons of chicle produced each year in Mexico, and on average Mexicans consume 2.5 pieces of gum per day. The average cleanup in Mexico City is 70 chicles per square meter. And in a single day, the cost of cleanup of the Zocalo amounts to approximately 2,800 pesos according to Diez Francos.
The cleaning of chewed gum is not a problem isolated to Mexico. Diez Francos points out that England spends 7 million euros each year cleaning up gum. And the fact is, chewed gum can be a health hazard since it can contain over 50 thousand germs and transmittable diseases. England’s chewing gum problem is so bad, it inspired artist Ben Wilson to take his talents to the tiny blobs spread all over the sidewalks. Concerned about the environment and how advertisements rule the urban environment, Wilson began painting on the gum. He doesn’t just dab them with color, he uses the gum as a canvas for his miniature paintings which he does just about everywhere and on most any subject.
Mexico not the first to impose a chewing gum tax
According to Diez Francos, in China, chewing gum can be considered illegal because authorities there have counted over 600 thousand pieces of gum stuck in Tiananmen Square. Besides, Mexico is not the only country considering a chewing gum tax as a solution to what has become a sticky problem. Ireland is considering an 11 percent chewing gum tax as well.
Mexico’s chicle problem is not going to go away by itself. The machines to clean the gum cost $6000 each, and then there is the salary to the personnel. But what about the poor kids selling gum on street corners? Will they have to hire accountants to maintain their purchases and sales so they can pay their share of the tax to the Secretaría de Hacienda? And what about corruption? Mexico is notorious for its corruption at all levels. My question is whether the 50 percent tax will actually make it to the proper authorities, buy more chewing gum cleaning machines, and hire more workers.
We tax cigarettes and alcohol, and just about everything else. Why not gum? Personally, I hate it when I’m walking down the sidewalk and I get a piece of fresh gum stuck on the sole of my shoe. It’s embarrassing and disgusting. But if the price of gum goes up, I’m not sure it matters so much to me since my favorite Mexican gum, banana flavored Motita, was discontinued years ago.
Originally published by Voxxi as Mexico’s chewing gum tax, a way out of a sticky problem