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Raising The Tax On Alcohol Reduces Deaths

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Friday, November 14, 2008 1:39 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Alcohol Tax, Alcohol Consumption, Drinking, Wine

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IMAGE SOURCE: © iStockPhoto/ toasting/ author: webphotographeer


Raising state taxes on alcohol can save lives, according to a newly released study.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, are based on experiences in Alaska, following two legislative moves to increase taxes on beer, wine and liquor in 1983 and 2002.

In the first instance, the research team observed a 29 percent decline in deaths from alcohol-related disease; and in the second, an 11 percent decline.

“The bottom line is, raising alcohol taxes can saves lives,” said Dr. Alexander Wagenaar, lead author and a professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. “The raise in taxes resulted in reduction of alcohol consumption, that reduction saved lives.”

The study examined the number of deaths that occurred over the duration of 28 years in Alaska from 1976 to 2004.

Using death certificates, researchers compiled the number of men and women who died from a range of alcohol-related conditions, including alcoholic liver disease, alcohol poisoning and deaths associated with alcohol including chronic pancreatitis and cirrhosis. Not included were alcohol-related deaths that were caused by violence or car accidents.

Researchers found 23 deaths per year were averted after a 1983 tax increase and 21 fewer deaths per year after a 2002 increase.

Supporters of raising beverage taxes say unlike tobacco, alcohol has largely gone under the radar in the U.S.

“When the excise tax on tobacco was raised, consumption declined and as a result tobacco related diseases also declined,” Wagenaar said. “Now, with the current study, we are finding the same to be true for alcohol. Adjusting taxes has a remarkable effect on the rate of alcohol related deaths. They parallel one another quite a bit.”

State governments need to re-examine their alcohol excise tax for fiscal reasons too aside from public health implications, says George Hacker, director of Alcohol Policies Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

“Given current state budgets, it’s an available source of revenue that has not been examined for a very long time,” Hacker said. “An increase in tax is long overdue.”

Most states have had the same taxes on alcohol for 20 years or more. Wyoming for instance hasn’t raised its tax on alcohol since the early 1930s, thus failing to keep up with inflation, said Hacker.

The American Beverage Licensees opposes an increase on alcohol tax.

“Historical evidence shows, raising the tax on alcohol would negatively impact the economy,” said Harry Wile, executive director of the American Beverage Licensees (ABL), which represents retailers of beer, wine and spirits. “Increasing the tax on alcohol could lead to diminishing returns for the government if responsible, moderate consumers slow down their consumption.”

“A broad tax increase on alcohol would not target the problem drinker, but simply condemn those who drink responsibly and enjoy wine and spirits,” said Craig Wolf, CEO and President of Wine and Spirits Wholesale of America (WSWA). #


8 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by Matt
Friday, November 14, 2008 4:10 PM EST

If this is true then why does the UK have some of the highest taxes on alcohol while having the one of highest binge drinking rates in Europe? I agree with Craig Wolf, this only punishes the responsible drinkers.

Anonymous User
Posted by Chuck
Friday, November 14, 2008 4:19 PM EST

If education about moderation does not work then the government, with the help of some misguided scientists, will tax products that are "dangerous" to the point that few can afford them. Idiots. Forcing people to drink less or smoke less or eat less does not solve the underlying issues of WHY they resort to that behavior.
Slippery slope, people. Slippery F'ing slope.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jim Hickman
Friday, November 14, 2008 4:33 PM EST

So What you are telling me is that only the wealthy should have the right to indulge and have the right to die on their own terms. Maybe the government should take our paychecks and allocate what we should spend it on. It seems that is there ultimate plan.

Anonymous User
Posted by Nobody
Friday, November 14, 2008 4:47 PM EST

Isn't this what they thought would stop smokers as well? The more taxes got raised on tobacco, the more smokers do without OTHER things in order to pay for it.

Anonymous User
Posted by Concerned
Friday, November 14, 2008 4:58 PM EST

Begs to discover whether the price of alcoholic beverages are elastic or not. I suspect raising taxes will reduce consumption AND reduce sales tax revenues causing States to raise taxes on other commodities to offset the loss....seems kinda silly to me.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jeff
Friday, November 14, 2008 5:14 PM EST

Those that find themselves addicted, will continue to drink, regardless of cost. Those who are responsible will feel punished by this move. I think everyone here has great and valid points. I'm not affected by this in any way, but I still feel that this is a dumb idea. How about, instead of this, they spend a bit more on education and addiction help resources. Oh wait, that costs money. Can't spend unless it's on the military. We all know that it's better to pay for ammunition than on rescuing people from their addictions.

Anonymous User
Posted by Sags7131
Friday, November 14, 2008 5:15 PM EST

This isn't going to stop anything. If anything it will make it far worse than it is. Doesn't anybody remember that we went down this road already it was called prohibition, and all that did was bankroll organized crime a problem we still have today. Another example of this kind of thinking is the war on drugs 40 years and trillions of dollars and any 8 year old can tell you where to go buy crack if you want it. Wake up people.

Anonymous User
Posted by David Rowell
Sunday, November 16, 2008 3:15 PM EST

I don't think this is like prohibition or like the drug war; it's more like smoking and, while I don't have any statistics at hand, I think it's clear that the 10-fold increase in the price of cigarettes has led to a decrease in smoking. It also reminds me of the implementation of mandatory helmets for motorcycle riders: bemoaned as an infringement of persoanal freedom, it also dramatically decreased the burden on public health facilities (read: you and me) due to the cost of carilng for uninsured head injury patients. Having said all that, I LIKE to drink good wine, and don't want to pay any more for the pleasure.

Comments for this article are closed.

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