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New WHO Report Detailing Alcohol’s Devastating Toll on Global Health Reinforces Urgent Need for Governments to Act

Statement from Jacqui Drope, Director of RESET Alcohol at Vital Strategies, on World Health Organization’s “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

June 27, 2024 (New York)—In response to World Health Organization’s (WHO) newly issued “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders,” Vital Strategies urges governments to implement and support strong alcohol taxation increases and other science-based policy actions to raise the price of alcohol and protect millions of people around the world from its health, social and economic harms.

WHO’s report finds that globally, 2.6 million deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption in 2019, with the burden of both death and disease falling the heaviest on lower-income countries. In addition, while 56% of adults aged 15+ don’t drink alcohol, of those who do, the average level of alcohol consumed per day continues to increase the risk of health conditions and injuries considerably.

Jacqui Drope, Director of RESET Alcohol, Vital Strategies stated, “It is essential that governments enact robust taxation policies on alcohol without delay. Though the report points out that most countries have enacted some form of alcohol taxes, in the vast majority of cases, these taxes are not at levels sufficient to reduce the devastating burden of alcohol harms.  Other science-based strategies to reduce alcohol’s societal harms include regulating its availability and restricting marketing; these policy actions are also highly underused by governments.“

Alcohol is responsible for more than 200 different diseases and injuries including alarming levels of liver disease, heart disease, cancer, road crashes and interpersonal violence. Alcohol marketing, which remains largely unregulated, is growing rapidly on the Internet and social media around the world. Most countries reported no progress in implementing the strongest interventions such as increasing taxation, restricting marketing and regulating availability and a significant number of countries report continued interference in policy development by the alcohol industry. 

WHO’s report finds that in 2019 the highest levels of alcohol-related deaths were in Europe and Africa, with 52.9 deaths and 52.2 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively while the greatest spikes in consumption between 2010 and 2019 occurred in Southern Europe and Southeast Asia. Particularly alarming is that 13% of alcohol-attributable deaths globally were among young people ages 20 to 39. Two million of the 2.6 million alcohol-related deaths were men.  Additionally concerning is that this landscape continues to change with prevalence of alcohol consumption among 15-19-year-olds at a shockingly high 22% with little gender difference and increases in some regions that have traditionally had lower prevalence.

“The common thread through all this data,” Drope continued, “is that alcohol harms have a devastating effect on individuals, families, communities and societies. Increasing taxes on alcohol is a proven, achievable, scalable policy that can save millions of lives, reduce illness and injuries, and restore the vibrancy of whole economies. Lower-income countries, which experience the highest rates of death and disease associated with alcohol consumption, lag behind higher-income counterparts in enacting these tax policies. Overall, most countries’ alcohol-tax policies are not adjusted for inflation or high enough to address the harms alcohol causes. These gaps must be addressed immediately to improve health outcomes in the next decade.“ 

For more information on RESET Alcohol, click here.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies believes every person should be protected by an equitable and effective public health system. We partner with governments, communities and organizations around the world to reimagine public health so that health is supported in all the places we live, work and play. The result is millions of people living longer, healthier lives.

To find out more, please visit or follow us on LinkedIn.

About RESET Alcohol

RESET Alcohol brings together national governments, civil society, research organizations and global leaders to advance policies from the World Health Organization’s SAFER package to reduce the health, social and economic harms of alcohol. The initiative is led by Vital Strategies in collaboration with Movendi International; The John Hopkins University Tobacconomics Team; Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA); The NCD Alliance; and World Health Organization (WHO).

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