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WHO Urges Countries to Raise Taxes on Alcohol and Sugary Drinks for Public Health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates for countries to boost taxes on alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to encourage healthier behaviours. WHO revealed that the global tax rate on these ‘unhealthy products’ is generally low, and higher taxes could contribute to healthier populations. With 2.6 million yearly deaths attributed to alcohol consumption and over eight million to unhealthy diets, WHO emphasizes that implementing excise tax on these items can reduce fatalities and prompt companies to produce healthier alternatives.

The organisation also highlighted that taxing these products not only reduces their use but also provides companies with an incentive to create healthier options. Additionally, the WHO released a manual on alcohol tax policy and administration, suggesting that minimum pricing combined with taxation can mitigate the consumption of cheap alcohol, leading to a decline in related hospitalizations, deaths, traffic incidents, and crimes.

Despite the common argument that alcohol taxes disproportionately affect the poor, WHO contends that it overlooks the “disproportionate harm per litre” for alcohol consumers in lower socioeconomic groups. The manual disclosed that 148 countries impose national excise taxes on alcoholic drinks, but 22 European countries exempt wine. Globally, the average excise tax for the most sold beer brand is 17.2%, and for the most sold spirits type, it is 26.5%.

In conclusion, WHO emphasises the need for well-designed alcohol tax and pricing policies to curb the increasing affordability of alcoholic beverages over time. The proposed tax adjustments aim not only to improve public health but also to fund essential public services.

Rugmini Dinu