In many western countries governments have been issuing advice on how much alcohol should be consumed as medical opinion about safe consumption levels has become more stringent (see NHS advice here). The specific recommended levels are controversial as the evidence is mixed, but the point is the consensus advice tends towards encouraging lower levels of drinking.

So I was surprised to find this claim in Paul Johnson's recent book, Follow the Money (which is an independent analysis about many of the inefficiencies and absurdities of the UK tax system and how governments raise and spend money). In the chapter discussing excise duties, he makes a throw away comment that:

The Japanese are reportedly encouraging younger adults to drink more explicitly to increase tax revenues.

Is this true? (to be clearer: are they encouraging alcohol consumption? The claim about the motive is secondary.)

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    Does the book include any further punctuation to disambiguate that comment? (It could mean e.g. ‘…to drink more explicitly, to increase…’, or ‘…to drink more, explicitly to increase…’, or ‘…to drink, more explicitly to increase…’)
    – gidds
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 22:22
  • 1
    @gidds Copied directly from the Kindle version, no extra punctuation. I would have punctuated it differently, but checking the source is more useful than doing kremlinology on the punctuation.
    – matt_black
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 22:32
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    I would like to add that in January WHO published an article stating that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption: No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health 4 January 2023 Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 12:43
  • @pabouk-Ukrainestaystrong An opinion which undermines the trustworthiness of WHO advice given that the evidence is variable and inconsistent.
    – matt_black
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 13:47
  • Great example of the importance of figuring out what you're incentivizing. Or more pointedly the importance of understanding that the government can be incentivized too. Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 13:06

2 Answers 2


Yes, here is a decent article about it:

Why Japan is asking its young people to drink more

The country’s National Tax Agency (NTA) has introduced content named ‘Sake Viva’ where it has invited ideas from people aged between 20 and 39 to boost alcohol consumption including drinking at home.

The campaign has met fierce backlash on social media, with users criticising the taxman for dictating people’s lifestyle choices. It’s a business promotion to encourage growth and “in no way is it encouraging people to drink excessively,” the NTA said, the report added.

Basically it was a social media campaign intended to go viral to boost alcohol consumption and therefore alcohol tax revenue.

The backlash against it extended beyond the Twitterati. Many social welfare NGOs issued a formal letter of protest. I don't see any response from the tax agency.

Here is a Japanese article which tries to interpret the government's actions. Basically the idea being that young people are giving up on alcohol in Japan (as in many post-industrial countries) and that this limits opportunities to grow social networks and deepen relationships through the commensality of drinking, so the government tried to make this social good more explicit. The article acknowledges that it is inappropriate to have a government take sides on drinking alcohol when it creates social evils as well.

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    So Japan would like for you to stop merely holding their beer...
    – Machavity
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 20:00
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    While I know the fluids have some marked differences, I can't help but be reminded of the longstanding conspiracy by the US government to convince children to drink more milk to prop up the dairy farmers despite the health benefits being known to be inflated specifically to drive more sales. Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 11:16
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    @SeanDuggan I was thinking about the similar campaigns to get people to eat more beef, or pork, or other meats, basically paid for by the big meat producers to boost sales. There's also been such campaigns from the cotton and plastics industries, so it's not all about food and beverages. Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 13:21
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    @DarrelHoffman Yep, but I find the (more or less covert) promotion of private interests by a democratic government particularly disturbing when applied to substances whose abuse can cause lots of social and health issues. After all severe abuse of milk or pork steak is quite rarer and doesn't have such dangerous (and costly) social/health consequences as abuse of alcohol and tobacco products. Commented Apr 22, 2023 at 11:02
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    @LorenzoDonatisupportUkraine Production of meat and milk is one of the most damaging forms of nutrition in terms of climate change. We would be much better off if more people drunk beer and consumed less meat and milk.
    – User65535
    Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 5:59


This claim is derived from the "Sake Viva!" ("サケビバ!") competition launched by the National Tax Agency in July 2022. (One might argue that this was merely one competition launched by one government agency and so not actually some concerted effort by the Japanese government as a whole.)

Some excerpts from the original PDF, Google translated:

The domestic alcoholic beverage market is shrinking due to demographic changes such as the declining birthrate and aging population, and lifestyle changes due to the impact of the new coronavirus infection. In this project, by asking young people to propose their own business plans, we will appeal to young people for the development and promotion of Japanese alcoholic beverages, and we will revitalize the industry by publishing excellent plans. ...

The competition asks 20-39-year-olds to submit

A plan that contributes to revitalizing the liquor industry and solving problems


  • New services and promotion methods aimed at stimulating demand among young people

  • Proposing products and designs based on new lifestyles and changes in tastes due to the corona crisis

  • Establishment of new sales methods utilizing AI and Metaverse

  • Improve the brand value of alcoholic beverages using geographical indications (GI), etc.

Here's a summary of the results of the competition.

There was an official website sakebiba.jp (last Archived in late Feb 2023), but this now redirects to another company's website.

  • LOL, I'm picturing someone drinking at home alone with a 3D headset plugged into the Metaverse. Uber sad. Commented Apr 23, 2023 at 4:51

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