(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Although the Health Ministry welcomed the significant hike in alcohol taxes two years ago, it was almost speechless on Tuesday and Wednesday when asked about the public health consequences of the large reduction in alcohol taxes that took effect at midnight on Tuesday.
The Health Ministry did not allow any interviews with public health officials, and it did not carry out on its promise that a senior public health official would give a background briefing on the matter. It issued only a very terse comment saying: “There is no doubt that excessive consumption of alcohol is a significant health danger. In many cases there are strict contraindications of drinking alcohol and being pregnant.”
It did not mention the higher risk of road accidents; the higher risk of cirrhosis and other liver diseases; and the danger to children and teenagers who get their hands on cheaper alcohol and suffer damage from drinking.
The Health Ministry then restated the press release from the Treasury when it announced the 46 percentage point cut in beer taxes and the 21 percentage point reduction in whiskey, liquor and wine taxes.
“The subject was discussed by the Tax Authority. They set up a committee that found that as a result of the higher prices, there was not a reduction in alcohol consumption.
In any case, counterfeit products, some of which endanger public health and can cause health damage and even death, have appeared in the market,” the Health Ministry said. “Therefore, after the balances of public health and the economic considerations, it was decided to return the situation to what was before and reduce exposure of the public to counterfeit products.”
The Health Ministry has not, however, urged the Treasury to cut tobacco taxes even though the market has large number of counterfeit cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Health Ministry officials were not included in the Tax Authority committee discussions.