WHO: More Countries Should Tax Alcohol and Sugary Drinks

The global health organization says most countries are not taxing alcohol or soda adequately to prevent the adverse health effects associated with these products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide, 2.6 million people die from alcohol use, and over eight million die from an unhealthy diet every year.

One way to combat this global health concern is by taxing these products.

For example, 2022 research suggests that a soda tax of one cent per ounce or more is linked with a higher reduction in sugary beverage purchases.

In addition, the WHO says that in Lithuania, because of an alcohol tax initiated in 2017, alcohol-related deaths fell from 23.4 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 18.1 per 100,000 people in 2018.

Now, the WHO wants more countries to follow suit and increase taxes on these products.

In a news release published on December 5, the WHO called on countries worldwide to implement an excise tax on all alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks. The call to action comes after new data revealed a low global rate of taxing these products.

For example, although 108 countries are taxing some types of sugary beverages, the average excise tax represents only 6.6% of the price of soda.

Moreover, data suggests that at least 148 countries have applied excise taxes to alcoholic beverages. However, wine is exempt from these taxes in at least 22 countries, primarily in the European Region.

Additionally, half of all countries have taxes on water, which is against WHO recommendations.

The WHO says that research shows increasing alcohol prices by 50% would help prevent over 21 million deaths over 50 years and produce nearly $17 trillion in additional revenues.

"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," says Dr. Rűdiger Krech, the director of the Department of Health Promotion at the WHO.

To support the effort, the WHO released the WHO Technical Manual of Alcohol Tax Policy and Administration, a practical guide for policymakers.

Do certain U.S. cities have a soda tax?

No state currently has an excise tax on sugary beverages. However, cities, including Boulder, Colorado; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia; Seattle, Washington; Albany, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, California, have implemented local sugar-sweetened drink taxes.

Moreover, these cities base their tax rate on the volume of beverages. These rates range from one cent per ounce in California cities to two cents per ounce in Boulder, Colorado.

According to a 2023 study, the soda tax in San Francisco reduced sugary drink consumption by 34% in the first two years after its implementation.

While reports indicate the American Beverage Association is against a sweetened beverage tax because it negatively impacts people with lower incomes and small businesses, a 2022 study suggests that most beverage tax revenues come from higher-income households and much of that revenue benefits programs for lower-income families.


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