WHO Urges Countries to Increase Taxes on Alcohol and SSBs

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries to raise taxes on alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), noting that a majority of countries do not incentivize healthier behaviors. The recommendations are based on the WHO’s study of taxation rates, revealing that the average global tax rate on such “unhealthy products” is low. The WHO suggests that higher taxes could lead to healthier populations and reduce deaths associated with alcohol and unhealthy diets.

Key Points

  1. Tax Recommendations: The WHO recommends that excise taxes should apply to all sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and alcoholic beverages. Excise taxes target specific consumer products.
  2. Impact on Health: According to the WHO, around 2.6 million people worldwide die from alcohol consumption, and over eight million die from an unhealthy diet. Implementing taxes on these products could contribute to reducing these deaths.
  3. Positive Ripple Effect: The WHO asserts that taxing unhealthy products creates healthier populations, leading to a positive ripple effect across society, less disease, and revenue for governments to provide public services.
  4. Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases: The tax on alcohol and SSBs is expected to help prevent non-communicable diseases such as cancers, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Additional Findings

  • SSB Taxation: Half of all countries taxing SSBs are also taxing water, contrary to WHO recommendations. Globally, excise taxes on SSBs represent an average of just 6.6% of the price of a soda.
  • Alcohol Taxation: At least 148 countries have applied excise taxes to alcohol at the national level. Wine is exempted from excise taxes in at least 22 countries, mainly in Europe.
  • Research Insights: Research suggests that people engaging in heavy episodic drinking tend to choose the cheapest available alcoholic beverages.
  • Potential Impact: A 2017 study cited in the report indicates that taxes increasing alcohol prices by 50% could help avert over 21 million deaths in half a decade and generate nearly $17 trillion in additional revenues.



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