Kenya's CSOs calls for tougher alcohol taxes to combat abuse

Sitting from left; Brian Magwaro Manager Bluecross Kenya, Benjamin Odhiambo Program Officer at Students Campaign Against Drugs,Lilian Gitau Executive Director at Renaissance Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

In a recent push to combat alcohol abuse, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Kenya, including Students Campaign Against Drugs (SCAD), BLUE CROSS KENYA, and the Renaissance Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, have voiced their collective call for the imposition of more punitive taxes on alcohol.

This move, aimed at reducing the consumption of alcohol and preventing the initiation of drinking among the youth, aligns with global best practices for public health safety.

During a joint press conference, representatives from these organizations underscored the alarming rate of alcohol consumption in Kenya, as highlighted in the 2022 report by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), which found that 3.2 million Kenyans consume alcohol.

The press conference saw the participation of key figures such as Benjamin Odhiambo of SCAD, Brian Magwaro from BLUE CROSS KENYA, and Lilian Gitau, the Executive Director of the Renaissance Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre.

Kenya has been grappling with the negative impacts of alcohol consumption, including a significant number of deaths linked to alcohol abuse, a problem that these organizations describe as a "cancer in our body politic."

To address this, the CSOs have proposed several measures, with a primary focus on increasing excise taxes on alcoholic beverages.

Backing their recommendation with evidence from the World Health Organization (WHO), the CSOs highlighted that higher excise taxes on alcohol are a proven strategy to reduce harmful alcohol consumption.

According to WHO, such fiscal policies not only decrease alcohol abuse but also generate additional revenue for governments, helping to offset the economic costs associated with alcohol consumption.

The proposed tax increase would see excise rates on beer, wines, and spirits rise significantly. For example, beer would see an increase of Sh56.98 per litre, bringing the new excise rate to Sh199.42 per litre.

Similar hikes are recommended for wines and spirits, setting new rates at Sh340.80 and Sh498.99 per litre, respectively.

Sitting from left; Mary Ger Board of Directors SHAPE; Brian Magwaro Manager Bluecross Kenya, Benjamin Odhiambo Program Officer at Students Campaign Against Drugs,Lilian Gitau Executive Director at Renaissance Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre.[Washington Onyango,Standard]

Moreover, the CSOs have called for stricter regulations on alcohol advertising, particularly the online promotion of alcoholic beverages, and the sale of alcohol near schools and places frequented by children.

They advocate for a total ban on such activities to protect vulnerable populations from the lure of alcohol consumption.

Another innovative measure proposed is the earmarking of county alcohol licensing fees for alcohol control-related programs, such as prevention, rehabilitation, and public education.

This would ensure that funds collected from alcohol licensing contribute directly to mitigating the adverse effects of alcohol consumption in the community.

The CSOs' recommendations come at a crucial time, as WHO's recent findings reiterate the severe health risks associated with alcohol consumption, including its classification as a Group 1 carcinogen and its link to several types of cancer.

By adopting these measures, Kenya's civil society believes it can significantly advance the fight against alcohol abuse, safeguarding public health and ensuring a healthier future for all Kenyans.

The collective voice of these organizations underscores the urgent need for action to tackle this pressing public health issue head-on.

By Ben Ahenda 22 hrs ago
Boxing
Kenyan boxers confident ahead of qualifiers
By AFP 1 day ago
Football
Pochettino leaves Chelsea after just one season in charge
By AFP 1 day ago
Football
Ronaldo poised for Euro record as Portugal name squad
By AFP 1 day ago
Football
Five reasons why Man City won the Premier League