New Initiative to Tackle Alcohol Harms Will Focus on Taxation
Alcohol is related to more than 60 different conditions, including cancers, heart and liver disease.

A $15 million initiative to address the harms of alcohol consumption through policy change was launched Tuesday, roughly doubling the total global spending on mitigating the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol is one of the top-ten drivers of death, illness and injury, with wide-ranging social and economic harms, many disproportionately affecting young adults, according to Vital Strategies, which heads the RESET Alcohol consortium.

“RESET Alcohol is an initiative that brings together national governments, civil society, research organizations, and global leaders in public health and alcohol policy to develop and implement evidence-based alcohol policies from the World Health Organization’s WHO) SAFER technical package,” according to Vital Strategies. 

The initiative will focus on Latin America, Africa and Asia, with partners Movendi International; the University of Illinois Chicago; the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA); the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Alliance; and the WHO, with GiveWell as the donor.

RESET’s primary policy focus will be on increasing alcohol taxation and other pricing policies which it describes as being “among the most effective interventions for reducing consumption”. It also aims to regulate the availability of alcohol, and restrict its marketing.

Over three years, the initiative will support 15 or more countries to develop policies including raising the price of alcohol via taxation, regulating availability, and restricting alcohol marketing.

Policies to protect kids

“Every year, alcohol use cuts millions of lives short and causes even more widespread suffering,” said Adam Karpati, senior vice president at Vital Strategies. 

“The onus can’t be on individuals. We must reset from an environment where the alcohol industry is empowered to push alcohol into nearly every aspect of our lives, including schools, sports, and media. We need policies that protect kids, make healthy choices, the easy choices, and check the industry’s influence. RESET Alcohol will do just that through strong partnerships with government and civil society leaders who are committed to action.” 

Alcohol consumption has increased in nearly all regions of the world consistently since 2005, and accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is related to more than 60 different conditions, including cancers, heart disease, liver disease, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; injuries and trauma including suicide, homicide, assault, falls, intimate partner violence, and vehicle crashes. Alcohol consumption is also associated with adverse economic impacts, from medical care costs to lost productivity.

RESET Alcohol’s approach builds on its partners’ successes in similar consortiums that have addressed tobacco and other harmful commodities, including contributing to 18.5% reduction in tobacco use in Bangladesh between 2009 and 2017 and a 17% reduction in India between 2010 and 2017.

“Failure to act has led to millions of preventable deaths and suffering from alcohol,” said Jacqui Drope, the new director of RESET Alcohol. “It’s time governments treat it like the public health crisis that it is. When governments take up policies proven to reduce alcohol-related harms, population health and economies will benefit.”

 RESET Alcohol will provide technical support to governments, improve national research and data collection, resource advocacy for policy change, and mount communications campaigns.

 “For governments, tax increases on alcohol are a win-win, especially given the sluggish global economy,” said Jeffrey Drope, Research Professor at UIC.

“Effective alcohol taxation reduces affordability, consumption and alcohol-related disease and premature death. This means lower healthcare costs and increased productivity from a healthier population. Taxes also create revenue for governments to fund health programs or other social priorities.

Image Credits: U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr. .

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