Monday, 19 August 2019

Drug coordinator against proposed lower VAT on draught beer

1 February 2016

Prague, Jan 29 (CTK) - The Czech Republic should fight the excessive drinking of alcohol beverages and not decrease taxes on them and make them more accessible, national drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril told CTK on Friday, criticising Finance Minister Andrej Babis's proposal for lower VAT on draught beer.

The proposal runs counter to the approved government plan of fighting alcohol impact, he said.

Czechs lead international standings in alcohol consumption. Moreover, its consumption among children and youth is one of the highest in the EU.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) has repeatedly warned of the extreme situation concerning alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic. It says pricing is one of the most efficient tools in the fight (against drinking) and making access to alcohol more difficult. Not lowering, but raising the price matters," Voboril said.

He called Babis' s (ANO) proposal populist.

Voboril said if the proposal won support, he would have to be considering his resignation.

Last year the centre-left government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) approved a plan to limit the damage caused by alcohol with the aim to cut the per capita consumption of pure ethanol by 5 percent in five years and by 30 percent in ten years, Voboril pointed out.

According to the statistics, about 12.5 percent of people over 15 drink alcohol daily (19 percent of men and over 6 percent of women).

More than 0.5 million out the 10.5 million inhabitants of the Czech Republic are addicted to alcohol. Children drinking alcohol face a much higher risk of becoming addicts than adults.

Polls show that 10 percent of 15-year-old Czech boys and 6.5 percent of girls drank five and more glasses of alcoholic beverages at least three times in the past month. One-fifth of them admitted that they had got drunk at least once in the past month.

The government's plan will focus on the prevention of children's alcohol consumption.

"Alcohol cannot be so cheap as to be accessible to all youth. It is not possible to further lower the price of alcohol in the situation where beer in restaurants is cheaper than plain water and we know that they serve it to the underage as well," Voboril said.

He also pointed to the negative health and social impacts of excessive drinking.

In 2013 alone, health insurers spent almost one billion crowns on the treatment of alcohol addiction and much higher sums went to the treatment of other diseases and injuries caused or worsened by drinking. The state suffered further drinking-related losses by a decreased work performance and collapsed relations.

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