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The Lancet Commission points to alcohol taxation for health

Global Health 2035

A new report published by The Lancet says there is an enormous payoff from investing in health and that fiscal policies are a powerful and underused lever for curbing of non-communicable diseases and injuries. Taxing tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances are among the reccommendations.

Øystein Bakke

Prompted by the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Development Report, a Lancet Commission revisited the case for investment in health and developed a new investment frame work to achieve dramatic health gains by 2035. The World Development Report is published every year by the World Bank and is probably the world's most widely distributed economic publication. The 1993 report, "Investing in Health," was a landmark publication making the case for health not only for health ministers but for heads of state and finance ministers as well. The Lancet Commission is making the case for the next twenty years.

The commission report, "Global health 2035: a world converging within a generation" published this week in The Lancet, points out that one paradox of success in global health is that when lowincome and middle-income countries successfully tackle infectious and reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health diseases, they then accelerate the shift in disease burden to NCDs and injuries of adults and elderly people.

An essential package of population-based interventions is suggested. This inclues taxation on alcohol, tobacco and other unhealthy substances. Taxation is a powerful lever to reduce risks from exposure to or consumption of unhealthy products, and taxes on alcohol and tobacco have long been a major source of substantial revenue generation worldwide. The Commission points out that tax increases are a highly cost-eff ective approach to reduce total alcohol consumption and the number of episodes of heavy drinking, especially in young people. 


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