Ko backs ‘liquor tax’ to fund alcohol campaign

DRIVING FORCE::The Taipei Mayor said that the capital raised from proposed taxation would be used to tackle drunk drivers and raise awareness of the related dangers

By Tu Chu-min and Wu Liang-yi  /  Staff reporters

Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 3

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday approved of the idea of levying a “liquor tax” on alcohol — a proposal first made by former minister of health Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) — saying the method would help to free up the capital the city needs for its campaign to combat drunk drivers.

Ko — along with Yaung and TV personality Cheng Chia-chen (鄭家純), better known as Chicken Cutlet Girl (雞排妹) — was speaking at an event to raise awareness about the danger of driving under the influence of alcohol.

He said that Taipei, despite comparatively lower fatality rates from drunk driving among the nation’s cities and counties, should strive to eliminate the crime, because deaths from drunk-driving incidents almost always affect entire families.

With the Lunar New Year holidays approaching, Ko said that every table at private-sector year-end banquets should have a host to ensure that no one drives after imbibing.

Citing past statistics, he said penalties have had limited impact on drivers’ behavior and people respond more to promotions urging people not to drink and drive.

Yaung said that health and welfare surcharges on tobacco products has not only helped stem the growth of the number of smokers, but also provided the government with funds required to run anti-smoking campaigns.

He said that taxing alcohol would help to discourage consumption, thereby lowering instances of drunk driving.

Ko lauded the liquor tax proposal, saying that society has paid too great a price for drunk driving, with more than 4,000 people killed in accidents where alcohol was a factor over the past decade, most of whom were young.

In 2010, a draft statute proposed by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chiang Ling-chun (江玲君) suggested imposing a surcharge on liquor products with an alcohol content of more than 35 percent, while KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) put forward a draft bill stipulating that drinks with an alcohol content of more than 5 percent should be taxed.

However, both failed to gain the necessary backing they needed to be passed into law.