Science and Tech


WHO: Countries should raise taxes on booze to save lives

The World Health Organization believes raising alcohol prices by 50% would avert 21 million deaths over 50 years.
Alcohol on shelves at a store.
Posted at 1:26 PM, Dec 06, 2023

The World Health Organizations is calling on countries to increase taxes on alcohol to "incentivize" healthy behaviors. 

“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 of the WHO.

Pointing to countries like Lithuania, which increased alcohol tax in 2017, the WHO said alcohol-related deaths drop from 23.4 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 18.1 per 100,000 people in 2018. 

The idea of taxing harmful products is not a novel idea. Higher taxes on tobacco products were implemented as more evidence showed the harm they can do. Numerous studies have shown that higher taxes on the products have led to a reduction in consumption. 

The WHO believes raising alcohol prices by 50% would prevent more than 21 million unnecessary deaths over 50 years and generate $17 million in additional revenues for governments. 

In the U.S., the federal tax rate varies depending on the type of alcohol. According to the Congressional Budget Office, there's a 21-cent tax per ounce of pure alcohol in distilled spirits. It's 9 cents per ounce of pure alcohol for beer an 6 cents for wine.  

In a Gallup poll commissioned by the WHO, 55% of respondents said they would be in favor of higher taxes on alcohol products if it would reduce deaths. People in other countries, including Colombia, Jordan and India, supported increased taxes at higher rates than Americans. 

Study shows alcohol-related mortality rates are rising faster in women
Bottles of wine are displayed.

Study shows alcohol-related mortality rates are rising faster in women

Data considered how cultural perceptions and pressures for women around alcohol use have changed dramatically throughout the last couple of decades.