A new bill is being discussed in the National Assembly of Panama that seeks to inject additional funds into the important National Oncology Institute (ION) through raising Panama’s excise tax on alcoholic beverages. The ION is Panama’s leaders in the care, research, prevention and rehabilitation of cancer in the country. It is specialized in the field of oncology.
The new draft of Law 106 modifies Law 6 of 2015 and Law 45 of 1995, on the selective tax on alcoholic beverages for the benefit of the ION. It has been proposed and is championed by the deputy Tito Rodríguez.
In his request for support for the adoption of the draft law, deputy Rodríguez noted that every year cancer cases are rising in Panama by 20% every year, according to TVN reporting.
The additional funds generated from the alcohol excise tax increase are planned to go to directly to the ION’s board of trustees for use by the ION, not the nation’s national budge.
Deputy Rodríguez also explained that the legislatative initiative was born out of necessity considering the limited space, staffing, funding, and capacity of the ION in the face of rising cancer cases in Panama.
Deputy Rodríguez argued the draft law to increase alcohol excise taxes to better fund cancer prevention, treatment, and research in Panama is a very noble cause, given cancer cases are increasing every year, especially breast, prostate and liver cancers.
Alcohol is a major risk factor for 7 types of cancer, including cancers of the prostate, liver, and female breast.
Deputy Rodríguez assured that the National Assembly that alcohol industry lobbyists had not yet reached out but that a lobbying would be likely to take place.
There is a similar legislative proposal in the making to improve resources for the Disability, Old Age and Death fund of the Social Security Fund in Panama. And Deputy Rodríguez said he would not be opposed to a merger of the two alcohol taxation initiatives.
Increasing the alcohol excise to better fund cancer prevention, treatment, and research in Panama, as per Mr Rodríguez’ proposal would generate $20 million for the ION.
The office of Deputy Rodríguez was still doing the calculations to have a more exact figures about the potential impact.
In addition to generating much needed resources, diseases such as liver cancer could be prevented and reduced thanks to the alcohol tax because of alcohol’s major role in these types of cancer.
European findings show the potential of alcohol taxation for Panama
A modelling study showed that of 180,887 new cancer cases and 85,130 cancer deaths due to in the WHO European Region in 2019 almost 6% of new cancer cases and cancer deaths caused by alcohol (or 10,700 cases and 4,850 deaths) could be avoided by doubling current alcohol excise taxes in the WHO European region.
The findings are particularly important for Member States of the European Union where excise duties are in many cases very low.
An OECD study showed that interventions targeting the price of alcohol, namely through a higher tax and alcohol floor price, are estimated to yield the greatest health impact by reducing the number of new related cancer cases by 174,193 and 141,175 over years 2020–2050, respectively. Consequently, demand for disease treatment will fall leading to a reduction in costs and an improvement in the financial sustainability of the health system.