Thousands of lives can be saved in Europe if governments improve alcohol taxation. A study conducted by the NCD Advisory Council’s signature initiative working group found that 132,906 lives can be saved if WHO European countries introduced a minimum level of 15% tax on the retail price per unit of alcohol, regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage.
Increasing the price of alcohol products through raising taxes is the most cost-effective alcohol policy solution to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. Increasing alcohol taxation is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “Best Buy” policy solution since this measure delivers greater health impacts in reducing illness, disability, and premature death than other policy options.
Despite the benefits of alcohol taxation, it remains one of the least implemented measures in the WHO European Region. This lack of implementation of public health-oriented, evidence-based alcohol taxation is mostly because of opposition from the alcohol industry.
The WHO’s Regional Director for Europe’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Advisory Council) proposed a new signature initiative on alcohol taxation. The NCD Advisory council aims to enhance the region’s untapped power of health taxes through the initiative.
It is time to learn from the example of tobacco control and tap into the potential of alcohol taxes similarly.
The WHO recommends that for tobacco the proportion of tax should represent at least 75% of the retail price of the most popular brand of cigarettes. In the WHO European Region, more than half of the Member States follow this recommendation. Compared to the tax share of tobacco, the average tax share of alcohol prices for the European Region is about four times lower.
Big Alcohol interference is a major reason for the low implementation of alcohol tax improvements in the European region, where many Big Alcohol giants are located.
It is time for a bold new initiative that puts people’s health before alcohol industry profits by establishing evidence-based alcohol taxation levels; and by re-investing into the health and well-being of people and communities across the region.