Amidst the rising alcohol harm in Germany the Green Party calls for higher alcohol taxes to control consumption and drive down harm to Germans. Germany has a high consumption of alcohol. According to the World Health Organization, an alcohol using German man consumes 24 litres…

Amidst the rising alcohol harm in Germany, the Green Party calls for higher alcohol taxation to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms.

Germany has a very high consumption of alcohol. According to the World Health Organization, an alcohol using German man consumes 24 litres and a woman 8.3 litres of pure alcohol, every year. The total per capita alcohol consumption is 13.4 litres which is high above the average of the WHO European region.

This high level of alcohol consumption caused economic damage of €57 billion in 2018, according to the German Government. 

© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

Out of those who use alcohol, over half the youth (56.3%) between 15 to 19 years of age and almost three quarters (43.1%) of all adults over 15 years of age engage in heavy episodic (binge) alcohol consumption.

The high level of consumption and binge alcohol use is leading to significant harm to society.

  • Over 11,000 deaths from liver cirrhosis,
  • over 1400 deaths from road traffic injury, and
  • over 14,500 deaths from cancer, are caused by alcohol in Germany.

German men are even more affected by alcohol harm, with 9.8% suffering from alcohol use disorders – another figure that is much higher than the WHO European regional average.

Despite this heavy alcohol burden, the last time the German government adjusted alcohol taxes was almost 20 years ago in 2001. Other than the introduction of the Alcopop-Tax in 2004, the last time alcohol taxes were increased meaningfully in Germany was 30 years ago in 1982.
Wine remains untaxed.

Therefore, the Green party, in a request to the federal government, has called for an increase in alcohol taxes. The party criticizes that alcohol taxes are lagging behind inflation.

The health control effect of alcohol taxes is not used by the federal government, there is no compensation for inflation, for example,” said Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, spokeswoman for the Green Party’s alcohol and other drug policy, as per the RND.

Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, Green party spokesperson on alcohol policy

The federal government’s response so far has been just to focus on education campaigns and promote “moderate” alcohol use, despite evidence that there is no safe level for alcohol consumption and that these measures are ineffective and costly.

Regarding the request by Greens the government has said they see no need for a tax increase. Stating that alcohol consumption is declining in the country. These were the same arguments given by the government while declining to raise the legal age for alcohol consumption.

While alcohol consumption has been declining since the 1970s in Germany, it remains very high, with a heavy burden on society and communities. As WHO data shows, alcohol consumption has actually risen between 2010 and 2016.

For all those reasons, there needs to be stronger political leadership and commitment to evidence-based alcohol policy. Specifically, considering the results from a study which showed 74,000 Germans die every year because of alcohol.

Need for an evidence-based alcohol strategy

The Greens have gone beyond calls for taxation asking for a stronger alcohol strategy. Apart from taxes, in their request, they have stressed the importance of advertising bans on alcohol and reduced availability through limiting alcohol sales hours.

Protection of minors and damage minimization must be given higher priority in the context of a real alcohol strategy,” said Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, spokeswoman for Green Party’s alcohol and drug policy, as per the RND.

The Greens are not the only ones calling for stronger alcohol control. Dietrich Munz, President of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists (BPtK), said that the federal government has only been focusing on education and personal responsibility which is inadequate.

That [education and personal responsibility] is not enough. We need an advertising ban as a first step and furthermore, in addition to educational campaigns, less availability through the limitation of sales hours for alcohol, ” said Dietrich Munz, President of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists (BPtK), as per Frankfurter Rundschau.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the alcohol policy best buys to governments to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. Banning alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion is one of the three best buys. Alcohol taxation is another one and is proven to be the single most cost-effective alcohol policy measure. The WHO has launched the SAFER technical package to guide member states in applying alcohol policy effectively in countries.

It is time that Germany made alcohol policy solutions the priority it should be given the heavy burden of alcohol harm on people, families and society at large.


RND: “Greens call for higher alcohol tax

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