Having read your reflection paper and your speech about the future of Health in Europe I should like to contribute with some proposals. My special concern is the alcohol problem, which you mention only very shortly.
Already before the big international EUROCARE conference "Bridging the Gap" in Warsaw, on June 16-19 2004, where many results of research were presented, it has been very clear what immense amount of harm we have to suffer in Europe and worldwide because alcoholic beverages are still regarded as an ordinary commodity. Your aspect that health brings wealth and is profitable for the whole economic system applies very much to the alcohol problem. Our society would gain a lot in health, happiness and financially if it would be possible to curb alcohol consumption by 10 - 20%. The economic world should at least understand that money which is not spent on alcohol reduces health cost and stays in the economic circulation either for consumption of other goods and services or as savings for investments by the banks.
Probably you think that this is not possible and that's why you didn't mention alcohol more detailed. I know the situation very well as I am working with alcohol prevention and politics for more than 40 years.
For the last three years I have developed a project idea of which I think it could be a solution. We know that pricing is one of the best and only measures to reduce consumption in a given society. But the winefarmers and brewers, the media and promotion industry have been too strong and politicians not strong enough or collaborating with them.
In my project there is a general alcohol tax depending on volume percentage. The tax income should cover about 50% of the social cost of alcohol related harm and would be spent for the state rental system (about 50%), all expenses for alcohol rehabilitation and prevention on national, regional and local level, to help winefarmers and brewers to improve quality of products, education, research and promotion for new products without alcohol, etc., to sponsor culture and sports on national, regional and local level if there is a preventive aspect and to finance the administration of this system. It is even possible to reimburse the amount of taxes which is put on very moderate consumption to all citizens. I shall include the project with an example for Switzerland.
To go forward with this project it would be necessary to make a study in several countries to find out which are the amounts and ways of help, culture, sports and producers could need and how big the profit would be for media and promotion firms, as the big amounts available for sponsoring would go to a big extent to them and would be higher than promotion for alcoholic beverages. Then it would be also much easier to make laws to forbid alcohol promotion in order to make education prevention to youth effective, which so far has brought nearly nothing and cost millions.
This research also has to find out what percentage of the population would be in favour of such a system. If it is high enough, politicians wouldn't dare to resist to such a plan. If it could be introduced in several neighbour states of the European Union the problems with smuggling would be gone.
This system could be used for tobacco and even cannabis (if legalized) taxes as well with even more benefits for society. If the society reduces its consumption and the promotion of legal drugs the use of illegal drugs would decrease too.
I am convinced that Switzerland would join the EU in this project. So far we have too little taxation because of the deep price level of our neighbour states.
I hope this idea finds an echo within the EU. It could change our societies extremly and give especially our families and children better prospects for the future.
Thank you for your attention and for your engagement for the public health in your time as commissionar. I often spread out your messages on my website.
Enclosure: Project idea
Dossiers: Suchtmittelwerbung; Alcopops; Absinth; WTO - GATS; Alkoholkonsum Jugendlicher; Alkohol und Verkehr / Drink Driving; Wein (Alkohol) sei (mässig genossen) gesund; Sport und Alkohol; Strukturelle Prävention; NPA (Nationales Programm Alkohol); botellón
Hermann T. Meyer, Projekte und Dienstleistungen, Lindenstr. 32, CH-8307
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