Alcohol taxes can reduce death rates among chronic heavy drinkers

August 9, 2010

Adjusting the alcohol tax in Florida to account for inflation since 1983 would prevent 600 to 800 deaths each year in that state from diseases caused by chronic heavy alcohol use, according to a new study from the University of Florida. The Florida legislature last increased alcohol taxes in 1983.

The new study, which analyzed death rate and tax data from 1969 to 2004, is published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (ACER). It was conducted by Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., and Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, University of Florida, College of Medicine, Gainesville.

"Previous studies conducted in the United States and other countries have clearly shown that increasing alcohol taxes is associated with reduced overall consumption of alcohol as well as reduced heavy drinking. This new study shows that increasing taxes on alcohol also influences the death rate from liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastric diseases, some cancers, and cardiovascular diseases caused by heavy alcohol use," according to Maldonado-Molina. The University of Florida study did not include deaths from traffic crashes, crime and violence associated with alcohol use, and therefore understates the total health effects of alcohol taxes.

A similar previous study by these investigators examined the effects of two substantial tax increases in Alaska. The Alaska study also found large reductions in alcohol-related death rates associated with the tax increases. But because Alaska has a much higher rate of alcohol-related deaths than the national average and because Alaska is different in many physical, demographic, and social characteristics than the lower 48 states, the authors designed the Florida study to see if similar results would be found in another more typical state.

The Florida legislature last increased the per gallon tax on beer in 1983 from $0.40 to $0.48, the per gallon tax on wine from $1.75 to $2.25, and the per gallon tax on spirits from $4.75 to $6.50, and those rates remain in effect today. "Because of the effects of inflation over the years, Florida's alcohol taxes in real terms are now only a quarter of what they were back in the 1960s," according to Wagenaar. "Simply returning the real tax rates to their levels in the 1960s would save the lives of some 1,500 Floridians per year from alcohol-related disease. "

The cause-of-death data for the Florida study came from the US National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics, and are based on information physicians provide on each individual death certificate. The study used those data through 2004, the last year for which such data were available when the study was started. The study controlled for many other factors using data on economic conditions and non-alcohol-related deaths in Florida as well as similar data from other comparison states.

The study used population-based alcohol-related deaths from January 1969 to December 2004 for Florida as well as comparison states, analyzing the trends over time with statistical models to ensure that the reduction in were specifically due to the effects of alcohol taxes, not other factors also changing over time.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Study suggests possible link between highly processed foods and cancer

February 14, 2018
A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between intake of highly processed ("ultra-processed") food in the diet and cancer.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.