Blue Cross calls for more tax on alcohol

FRANCISTOWN: An alcohol policy training manager for Blue Cross Norway has called on the government of Botswana to increase taxation in such a way that the alcohol industry covers all the expenditure created by alcohol consumption.

Anders Wengen was speaking at a two-day alcohol evidence-based intervention workshop hosted by Blue Cross Botswana at Thapama Hotel that ended on Tuesday.

Both Blue Cross Norway and Blue Cross Botswana are members of Blue Cross in Switzerland, whose mission is to improve people's quality of life by addressing alcohol, drug and other substance abuse through prevention, treatment, after-care and support to those directly and indirectly affected.

According to Wengen, increased taxation of alcohol would decrease consumption of alcohol and increase government revenues, noting that calculation of expenditure on alcohol is underestimated.

He said alcohol harms children as they are likely to experience physical, mental and/or sexual abuse over time because most adults change their behaviour when drunk. It also causes neglect of children and irregular incidents of abuse.

"Children can sense the change of behaviour at the age of four months," Wengen said. "This might make them insecure. They should not see their parents consuming alcohol. Parents who give children alcohol are not doing them a favour."

He said the money made from taxation of alcohol should be invested in research to find out why people imbibe in formal alcohol.
"Much more research is needed on informal brews," he said. "There is no other country that can do that like Botswana."

He noted that the majority of people who brew beer in Botswana are breadwinners in their families.

Councillor Professor Tlou of Itekeng Ward, who officially opened the event on behalf of the Mayor of Francistown, said the issue of alcohol consumption and drug abuse is a long-standing, widespread and varied human custom throughout the globe.

"The responsibility of handling the alcohol and drug problems should not be left to government alone," he said. "All stakeholders should have a role to play."

He said in Botswana, people still maintain the traditional patterns of alcohol consumption, though global brands of alcohol and drugs are expanding rapidly to every corner of the country.

Tlou said these harmful goods bring with them new brand identities, inevitably globalising cultural values.

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