Raising state taxes on alcohol may trigger an immediate drop in the number of people who die from alcohol-related disease, new research reveals. The finding is based on the particular experience of Alaska, following that state’s two legislative moves to raise 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; in the second, the apparent drop was 11 percent. “The real bottom line is that the increase in the alcohol tax saved lives,” said study lead author Alexander C. Wagenaar, a professor of epidemiology with the College of Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The study was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To gauge the impact of alcohol taxes on alcohol-related disease fatalities, the authors analyzed U.S. National Center for Health Statistics data from 1976 through 2004. They tallied the number of men and women who died from a range of alcohol-related conditions, both in Alaska and across the United States, before and after Alaska’s two tax bumps. Such diseases include cirrhosis, cancer of the mouth, cancers of the esophagus, breast cancer, and a number of other pancreatic and cardiac illnesses. Alongside alcohol-related injuries and accidents, such illnesses make up the estimated 85,000 alcohol-fueled deaths occurring in the United States annually. And it should be pointed out that in public health, if we do something that reduces the death rate by just 3 or 5 percent, that’s considered to be a major success. And these tax increases reduced the risk of death from alcohol-related disease far more substantially than that.” “Just think of the healthcare cost that would be saved if we reduced the death rates across the whole country. And this is absolutely something that’s not impossible to do.” “So this study reaffirms this effect and its impact, in terms of alcohol. And it suggests that any change in public health messages concerning alcohol consumption should also involve a change in taxes, and therefore prices, as an effective means for ensuring improved health for the community.”http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/healthday/2008/11/13/booze-taxes–lower-alcohol-linked-deaths.htmlhttp://www.cspinet.org/booze/taxguide/TaxIndex.htm
“So, the implication for the other states and the country as a whole is quite amazing,”
For more on the impact of alcohol taxes on drinking behaviors, head to the Alcohol Policies Project.