“If you want to reduce alcohol consumption, you must ensure that the disproportionately low prices for alcoholic beverages in Germany are raised,” Dr. Raphael Gaßmann, head of the German Office for Addiction Issues, told the Funke Media Group at a press briefing on Friday.
Federal drugs commissioner Marlene Mortler told Spiegel Online that cheaply priced alcohol in Germany has “nothing to do with enjoyment anymore,” but rather is aimed at mass consumption.
Such prices encourage younger people on low incomes to “guzzle” down alcohol, she added. “The problem is that alcohol in our society is far too omnipresent, too obvious.”
German beer prices are among the lowest in Western Europe, with a 2015 study showing that a pint at a supermarket in Berlin costs an average of €0.71, €0.74 in Frankfurt and €0.81 Munich, all below the European average of €1.05.
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In 2004, Germany imposed a tax on so-called alcopops, or sweet alcoholic drinks, in an initiative to reduce their popularity among younger drinkers. The move showed “how effectively one can initiate a broad, positive change through targeted taxation,” said Kai Kolpatzik, an addiction expert with the AOK insurance company.
Germany counts among the countries in which the consumption of alcohol is too high, wrote The Lancet in a study published in April. More than 100 grams of pure alcohol per week – or about five and a half glasses of wine or 2.5 litres of beer – contributes to a decline in health, they stated. Yet Germans consume about 165 grams per week.
In Scotland, the minimum price of alcohol has been set at 50 pence (57 cents) per 10 milliliters of pure alcohol. Doctors and health associations deemed the move to be the biggest breakthrough since the country’s smoking ban in public places.
“This law will save lives,” Alison Douglas, the head of Alcohol Focus Scotland, told Spiegel Online. She expects the number of deaths due to excessive alcohol consumption to fall by 58 deaths per year in the first year of the tax.