WHO Calls for Higher Taxes on Alcohol, Sugary Sweetened Drinks

You knew this was coming: The World Health Organization is calling for higher taxes on bev/al and sugary sweetened beverages worldwide.

And you can bet this report will be cited by U.S. antialcohol forces as they advocate for higher taxes on alcohol, saying higher taxes reduce one harm or another from alcohol.

Ignoring the well-documented positive effect of bev/al and moderate alcohol consumption, the United Nations agency attributes the death of 2.6 million people a year worldwide to "harmful" alcohol use. Those deaths, we are told, are from a variety of different causes – coronary heart diseases, various cancers, and other diseases.

WHO says that the affordability of beer, measured as relative income price, has increased in the past decades – although it doesn't say how many decades – as well as in the EU and OECD for other alcoholic beverages.

WHO calls for increasing excise taxes on alcohol beverages saying it can "prevent alcohol related harm b y reducing consumption, delaying and even preventing the initiation of drinking." Alcohol taxes represent a win-win-win strategy: a win for public health (and averted healthcre costs), a win for government revenue and win for health equity," WHO says.

The big news in WHO's eyes is that WHO developed a technical manual on alcohol taxation policy and administration. For instance, a 2017 study shows that taxes that increase alcohol prices by 50% would help avert over 21 million deaths over 50 years and generate nearly $17 trillion in additional revenues. This is equivalent to the total government revenue of eight of the world's largest economies in one year.

The WHO report contains some statements that, quite frankly, seem to be a reach. Alcohol-related deaths dropped to 18.1 per 100,000 people in 2018 from 23.4 per 100,000 people in 2016 after Lithuania increased alcohol tax revenue to 323 million euros in 2018 from 234 million euros in 2016.

Do you really believe that a 38% drop in alcohol tax revenue caused a 22.6% drop in alcohol-related . . . in just two years. We don't. There may be correlation, but there's not causation.

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