Geneva-The World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, has recently issued a global advisory urging countries to significantly increase taxes on alcohol and sugary beverages, citing the potential for promoting healthier habits and reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases. The advisory stems from a comprehensive study on global tax structures conducted by the UN agency, revealing that a majority of nations impose insufficient taxes on these beverages.
The WHO recommends mandatory excise taxes, particularly on sugary beverages, with the aim to foster healthier habits among populations, reduce the alarming number of deaths linked to these consumables, and simultaneously bolster government revenues.
The Mooknayak spoke to Dr. Snehlata Sharma, a gynecologist in Rajasthan, who emphasized that the Indian government should heed the WHO advisory. Dr. Sharma stressed the significance of addressing the health challenges posed by junk food, sugary beverages, and alcohol, endorsing the need for measures aligning with the global recommendations.
Low Global Taxation
The study indicates that most countries have remarkably low taxes on alcohol and sugary beverages.
An average excise duty of only 6.6% on sugary beverages globally, contributing minimally to their overall price.
148 countries have a national-level excise duty on alcohol, with exemptions in 22 countries, predominantly in Europe.
Potential Revenue and Health Benefits
The WHO proposes a 50% increase in alcohol prices, estimating a potential $17 trillion in additional revenue over 50 years.
Such measures could prevent over 21 million deaths globally during the same period.
Governments stand to gain $340 billion annually, enhancing global income
Lithuania's decision to raise alcohol taxes in 2017 resulted in reduced alcohol consumption and a decline in alcohol-related deaths.
Alcohol tax revenue increased from 234 million euros in 2016 to 323 million euros in 2018.
Alcohol-related deaths decreased from 23.4 per lakh people in 2016 to 18.1 per lakh people in 2018.
WHO emphasizes that unhealthy eating habits cause more than 80 lakh deaths annually worldwide.
Alcohol consumption contributes to 26 lakh deaths each year.
The proposed taxes aim to mitigate these alarming figures and promote healthier lifestyles.
Fair Taxation Concerns
WHO criticizes the fairness of taxing water in half of the countries that also tax alcohol and sugary beverages, highlighting the need for equitable taxation policies.
The WHO's advisory calls on nations to heed the lessons from successful taxation strategies and implement measures to increase taxes on alcohol and sugary beverages.
The potential benefits include improved public health, reduced mortality rates, and substantial additional revenue that can be allocated to healthcare initiatives.
Governments worldwide are now faced with a critical decision – to prioritize the health of their populations and bolster their economies by adopting WHO's recommendations on taxation.