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Open Access Research article

The possible impact of an alcohol welfare surcharge on consumption of alcoholic beverages in Taiwan

Chun-Yuan Yeh1, Li-Ming Ho2, Jie-Min Lee3* and Jhe-Yo Hwang1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of International Trade & Logistics, Overseas Chinese University, 100, Chiao-Kwang Rd., Taichung, Taiwan

2 Department of Marine Leisure Management, National Kaohsiung Marine University, 142, Hai-Chuan Rd., Kaohsiung, Nan-Tzu, Taiwan

3 Department of Shipping and Transportation Management, National Kaohsiung Marine University, 142, Hai-Chuan Rd. Nan-Tzu, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:810  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-810

Published: 8 September 2013

Abstract

Background

The abuse of alcoholic beverages leads to numerous negative consequences in Taiwan, as around the world. Alcohol abuse not only contributes to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer, but it is also an underlying cause of many other serious problems, such as traffic accidents, lost productivity, and domestic violence. International leaders in health policy are increasingly using taxation as an effective tool with which to lower alcohol consumption. In this study, we assessed how consumption patterns in Taiwan would be affected by levying a welfare surcharge on alcoholic beverages of 20%, 40% or 60% in accordance with the current excise tax. We also assessed the medical savings Taiwan would experience if consumption of alcoholic beverages were to decrease and how much additional revenue a welfare surcharge would generate.

Methods

We estimated the elasticity of four types of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, whisky and brandy) using the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) Demand Model. Specifically, we estimated alcohol’s price elasticity by analyzing the sales prices and time statistics of these products from 1974 to 2009.

Results

Alcoholic beverages in Taiwan have the following price elasticities: beer (−0.820), wine (−0.955), whisky (−0.587), brandy (−0.958). A welfare surcharge tax of 40% in accordance with the excise tax would decrease overall consumption of beer, wine, whisky and brandy between 16.24% and 16.42%. It would also generate New Taiwan Dollar (NT$) revenues of 5.782 billion to 5.993 billion. Savings in medical costs would range from NT$871.07 million to NT$897.46 million annually.

Conclusions

A social and welfare surcharge of 40% on alcoholic beverages in Taiwan would successfully lower consumption rates, decrease medical costs, and generate revenue that could be used to educate consumers and further decrease consumption rates. Consequently, we strongly recommend that such a tax be imposed in Taiwan.

Keywords:
Alcohol prices; Welfare surcharge on alcoholic drinks; Price elasticity; Welfare surcharge revenues