IBX-Jakarta. The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging global authorities to elevate taxes on alcohol and sugar-laden beverages, emphasizing that insufficient states are employing taxation as an incentive for healthier behaviors. In a statement released recently, the WHO highlighted the relatively low average global tax rates on these “unhealthy products,” advocating that increased taxes could contribute to fostering healthier populations. The UN health agency recommended the application of excise taxes to all sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and alcoholic drinks.
According to the WHO, an estimated 2.6 million people perish annually due to alcohol consumption, while over eight million deaths result from an unhealthy diet. The implementation of taxes on alcohol and SSBs, the WHO asserted, would not only lower the consumption of these products but also encourage companies to produce healthier alternatives. The WHO noted that although 108 countries impose some form of taxation on SSBs, globally, excise taxes on average constitute only 6.6 percent of a soda’s price. Additionally, the WHO highlighted that half of these countries levy taxes on water, a practice not recommended by the agency.
Rudiger Krech, the WHO’s health promotion director, emphasized the positive impact of taxing unhealthy products, stating that it leads to healthier populations, reduces diseases and disabilities, and generates revenue for governments to fund public services. Krech also underscored that alcohol taxes aid in preventing violence and road traffic injuries.
The WHO recently unveiled a manual on alcohol tax policy and administration for its 194 member states. The manual proposed that implementing minimum pricing along with taxation could effectively reduce the consumption of inexpensive alcohol, subsequently decreasing alcohol-related hospitalizations, fatalities, traffic violations, and crimes.
Despite 148 countries imposing national excise taxes on alcoholic beverages, the WHO noted that at least 22 countries, mainly in the European region, exempt wine from such taxes. On a global scale, the excise tax averages 17.2 percent for the most sold brand of beer and 26.5 percent for the most sold type of spirits.
WHO assistant director-general Ailan Li highlighted the increasing affordability of alcoholic beverages over time and emphasized the necessity of well-designed alcohol tax and pricing policies to mitigate this trend. Additionally, the manual countered the industry’s argument that alcohol taxes disproportionately impact the poorest, emphasizing the higher harm per liter for alcohol consumers in lower socioeconomic groups.
Source: WHO Urges Higher Tax on Alcohol, Sugary Drinks, Citing Over 10M Annual Deaths – News18