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JAM | Dec 6, 2023

WHO wants countries to impose taxes on alcohol, sugary beverages

Vanassa McKenzie

Vanassa McKenzie / Our Today

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Despite an alarming number of persons dying globally from drinking alcoholic beverages, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting that countries are underutilising health taxes to reduce the negative impacts of products such as alcohol, tobacco, and sugary or sweetened beverages on the global population.

In a statement on Tuesday, December 5, WHO underscored that globally 2.6 million people die from drinking alcohol every year and over eight million from an unhealthy diet.

It said implementing tax on alcohol and sugary or sweetened beverages will reduce these deaths.

“Taxing unhealthy products creates healthier populations. It has a positive ripple effect across society – less disease and debilitation and revenue for governments to provide public services. In the case of alcohol, taxes also help prevent violence and road traffic injuries,” said Dr Rűdiger Krech, director of health promotion at the World Health Organization.

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

WHO’s data revealed that half of all countries taxing sugary or sweetened beverages are also taxing water, which it does not recommend.

It further noted that although 108 countries are taxing some sort of sugar-sweetened beverage, globally, on average excise tax, a tax designated for a specified consumer product, represents just 6.6 per cent of the price of a soda.

WHO said at least 148 countries have applied taxes to alcoholic beverages at the national level. However, wine is exempted from the excise taxes in at least 22 countries, which are mostly in the European region.

At the global level, WHO said the excise tax share in the price of the most widely sold brand of beer is 17.2 per cent. For the most widely sold brand of the most widely sold spirits type, it is 26.5 per cent.

To tackle this issue, WHO released its technical manual on alcohol tax policy and administration, which will serve as a guide and a call to action for policymakers and others involved in alcohol tax policymaking to develop strong policies for their respective countries.

Similar to other parts of the world, Jamaica is also grappling with the impacts of non-communicable diseases on its population mainly due to poor healthy habits.

As part of the current thrust to help Jamaicans make healthier choices as it relates to their diet, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is promoting front-of-packaging labelling and public awareness campaigns.

For schools, the health ministry has also implemented the Interim Guidelines for Beverages in Schools, which seeks to reduce students’ consumption of sugary or sweetened beverages.

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