Health Ministry Backs Increased Taxes On Alcoholic Drinks

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The Ministry of Health has urged Parliament to increase taxes on alcohol to reduce its availability and mitigate the effects of substance abuse in Uganda.

Hafsa Lukwata, the Head of the Mental Health Division in the Ministry explained the widespread availability of alcohol and its detrimental impact on society calls for an expedited deterrent action. She emphasized the need for higher taxes to make alcohol less affordable, particularly for vulnerable populations.

During a stakeholders’ engagement on the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2023, Lukwata advocated for an immediate cultural shift away from using alcohol in political campaigns.

“One of our biggest problems is the availability of alcohol. It is
everywhere and it is all the time and to everyone, we need to increase the taxes so that the prices go up and not everyone can afford to buy,” said Lukwata.

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2023 report indicates that Uganda has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates globally, with 12.2 litres per person annually, significantly above the African and global averages.

Lukwata stressed the importance of preventing youth from starting to drink alcohol, advocating for measures to reduce its normalization in society.

“Most young people if they don’t start taking alcohol by the age of 21, they will never start, it will be just a small proportion that will ever start. Don’t expose your children to alcohol, I know we are going into politics season and we are going to use it as a politicking mechanism. I wish we can have an alcohol-free election”,  Lukwata added.

Amuria District Woman MP Susan Amero supported the proposal, noting the potential for increased revenue, but called out the government’s corruption and lack of visible service delivery.

She warned against targeting only formal alcohol manufacturers and highlighted the prevalence of informal brewers. Amero also criticized the Ministry of Health for inadequate protection against substance abuse.

“We should put a tax that will reduce alcohol consumption. But if we put heavy taxes on licensing, there is too much corruption in the country, even the money you collect from these licenses, people aren’t seeing services”, Ameru allayed her fears.

Parliament’s Health Committee has recommended a 20% tax increase on harmful products like alcohol and tobacco, which could significantly boost revenue.

The Uganda Alcohol Report estimates the country has between 5-12 million alcohol consumers, with over 66% consuming illicit, unregulated alcohol, posing severe health risks and causing substantial revenue losses.

Source

Parliament of Uganda

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