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WHO Encourages Action to Reduce Harmful Alcohol Use

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a press release last week entitled, “Action needed to reduce health impact of harmful alcohol use.” Looking quickly at the headline one might think that the press release was a statement implying that all alcohol use is harmful. In fact the first paragraph notes that 2.5 million deaths each year are caused by the harmful use of alcohol. The key words to note are “harmful use.”

After making the connection between harmful use and deaths, the press release goes on with, “Harmful use of alcohol is defined as excessive use to the point that it causes damage to health and often includes adverse social consequences.”

In an attempt to deal with “harmful use,” WHO is suggests that countries work to limit harmful alcohol use. “The Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, endorsed by WHO’s Member States in May 2010, promotes a range of proven effective measures for reducing alcohol-related harm. These include taxation on alcohol to reduce harmful drinking; reducing availability through allowing fewer outlets to sell alcohol, raising age limits for those buying and using effective drink-driving measures.”

While I support the fight against harmful drinking, i.e. too much alcohol consumption and driving under the influence, I also support peoples right to purchase alcohol. Raising taxes may be beneficial to the country or state’s coffers but it has the potential of harming the wine and other alcohol industries. Will unemployment increase if taxes are increased? Will people begin drinking in moderation because taxes are increased? If taxes are increased that will encourage people to drink illegally made wine. If fewer outlets sell alcohol all that does is lead to illegal places to sell alcohol. The answer is more education about the consequences of harmful drinking. Educating about the positive and negative attributes of alcohol may be far better than taxing alcohol.

Cheers, Kathy

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