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WHO Urges Higher Taxes on Alcohol and Sugary Beverages

To promote healthier behaviours, the WHO advocated for higher prices on alcohol and SSBs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called for increased taxes on alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to promote healthier behaviors, citing insufficient taxation by many countries to drive positive lifestyle changes.

Low Global Tax Rates and Health Impact:

The WHO highlighted the low average global tax rates on these “unhealthy products,” emphasizing the potential for elevated taxes to lead to healthier populations. 

It stated that higher taxes could reduce deaths associated with alcohol consumption, which claims 2.6 million lives annually, and unhealthy diets, responsible for over eight million deaths yearly.

Taxation and Incentives for Healthier Alternatives:

Implementing taxes on alcohol and SSBs could decrease their use and incentivize companies to create healthier alternatives, the WHO asserted, emphasizing the potential for positive societal impact and revenue generation for public services.

The WHO stressed that alcohol taxes play a role in preventing violence and road traffic injuries. 

Additionally, it released a manual on alcohol tax policy and administration, emphasizing the benefits of minimum pricing combined with taxation to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol Taxation Landscape:

While 148 countries impose national excise taxes on alcoholic drinks, the WHO noted exemptions for wine in at least 22 European countries. 

It highlighted a consistent increase in the affordability of alcoholic beverages over time, underscoring the need for effective tax policies to address this trend.

Addressing Industry Claims:

Addressing the industry’s argument that alcohol taxes disproportionately impact the poorest, the WHO countered that lower socioeconomic groups experience disproportionate harm per liter of alcohol consumed, justifying the need for well-designed alcohol tax policies.

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