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DOH planning a surcharge on alcohol

2010/05/31 19:49:30

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) The Department of Health (DOH) has begundrafting a law to control the harmful use of alcohol that wouldauthorize "health" surcharges on alcohol and require bottles ofliquor to carry warning labels, DOH Minister Yaung Chih-liang saidMonday.

Yaung said he would support the legislation but expected it wouldbe tougher to prevent alcohol abuse than the hazards from smokingcigarettes.

"Drinking mildly may not harm one's health but alcoholism orabusive drinking is a big problem, " he said during a hearing at theLegislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.

The bill, he said, would only be proposed after a series ofpublic hearings are held nationwide and society reaches a consensuson the drive to combat alcohol abuse.

The health minister also suggested that the DOH cooperate withthe John Tung Foundation -- a nonprofit organization dedicated topublic welfare in Taiwan that spearheaded the no-smoking campaign --to use its clout in promoting the anti-alcohol campaign.

Meanwhile, Chiou Shu-ti, director-general of the DOH's Bureau ofHealth Promotion, said that according to practices abroad, imposingalcohol taxes or surcharges is an effective way of reducingalcohol-related abuse.

Chiou said measures aimed at lowering alcohol hazards abroad varybut include the imposition of alcohol taxes according to the liquor'sproof and minimum price schemes.

Nothing similar has been finalized yet in Taiwan, and Chiou saidsome experts have even suggested that alcohol surcharges can belevied in accordance with the Health Promotion Act, making an alcoholhazards prevention bill redundant.

During a meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva onMay 21, Chiou extended Taiwan's support for a WHA strategy to reducethe harmful use of alcohol.

The WHA passed a resolution to reduce the harmful use of alcoholby, among other things, regulating advertising, encouragingabstinence, imposing limits on the availability of alcohol andoffering treatment for heavy drinkers.

She also said Taiwan will follow World Health Organizationguidance to enact a law to help achieve those goals, includinglevying "health" charges and adding health warnings toalcohol-related containers.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Deborah Kuo)