Higher Alcohol Tax Reduces Deaths

Shot glass of liquor uid 1344161 Increasing Alcohol Taxes Saves Lives, Reduces Crime

Doubling taxes on alcohol products could lead to substantial reductions in alcohol-related deaths, STD rates, and crime, Health.com reported Sept. 24.

Health policy researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville analyzed data from 50 studies examining the relationship between alcohol taxes, mortality, and risky behaviors. (The studies took place between 1955 and 2004, and most were conducted in the U.S.)

Statistical estimates based on the findings showed a 50 percent alcohol tax increase could effectively

  • reduce alcohol-related mortality by 35 percent,
  • automobile fatalities by 11 percent,
  • STD rates by 6 percent,
  • violence by 2 percent, and
  • crime by 1.4 percent.
  • The only measure in which higher taxes did not significantly reduce alcohol-related harms was for suicide.

"What is surprising is the consistency of the effect across a broad range of health outcomes that kind of don’t have anything to do with each other," said Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and health outcomes at the university and lead author of the research.

One of the included studies took place in Alaska, which instituted tax increases on alcohol in 1983 and 2002. Both rate hikes corresponded with a drop in alcohol-related deaths in the state, including a 29 percent drop after the 1983 increase.

Although the increases would be small in terms of dollars, Wagenaar continued, they might be enough to reduce intake among heavy drinkers on tight budgets, college students, and social drinkers. "Studies show that all these groups respond to price," he said.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Public Health on Sept. 23, 2010.

From Join Together

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