Increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages reduces disease, injury, crime and death rates

September 23, 2010, Burness Communications

Increasing the costs to consumers of beer, wine, and hard liquor significantly reduces the rates of a wide range of alcohol-related deaths, diseases, injuries, and other problems, according to a new study published in today's online edition of the American Journal of Public Health and scheduled for inclusion in the November print edition. Researchers at the University of Florida (UF) report that public policies that increase the price of alcoholic beverages, such as increases in alcohol excise taxes, not only reduce drinking but also significantly reduce most of the negative and costly outcomes associated with alcohol.

According to the researchers, have considerably larger effects than prevention programs on a state's burden of alcohol-related problems. The results suggest that doubling the average state tax on alcohol would be associated, on average, with a 35 percent reduction in alcohol-related mortality, an 11 percent reduction in traffic crash deaths, a 6 percent reduction in STDs, a 2 percent reduction in violence, and a 1.4 percent reduction in crime.

"Our meta-analysis cumulated information from all the published scientific research on this topic over the past half century, and results clearly show increasing the price of alcohol will result in significant reductions in many of the undesirable outcomes associated with drinking," said Alexander C. Wagenaar, PhD, professor of health outcomes and policy at UF College of Medicine and lead author of the study.
"Simply adjusting decades-old tax rates to account for inflation could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in law enforcement and health care costs."

For this meta-analysis study, the researchers identified 50 published research papers containing 340 estimates of the effects of alcohol taxes or prices on the rates of a variety of outcomes, including: all-cause morbidity and mortality, alcohol-related diseases or injuries, violence, suicide, traffic safety outcomes, STDs and risky sexual behaviors, other drug use, and crimes and misbehaviors. Through a meta-analysis of the aggregate data from all those studies, the researchers found that alcohol prices and taxes are significantly and inversely related to all outcome categories examined except suicide, for which data were too sparse to draw a firm conclusion.

"Results are surprisingly consistent," said Wagenaar. "With the sole exception of suicide rates, every category of outcome examined shows a significant effect of alcohol taxes and prices."

Today's study follows a previous meta-analysis study through which these researchers found that a 10 percent increase in alcohol price results in about a 5 percent reduction in alcohol consumption. That study examined 112 research papers containing 1,004 estimates of the effects of alcohol prices on alcohol sales and drinking behaviors.

"Taken together, these two studies establish beyond any reasonable doubt that, as the price of alcohol goes up, consumption and the rates of adverse outcomes related to consumption go down," said Wagenaar. "The strength of these findings suggests that tax increases may be the most effective way we have to prevent excessive drinking—and also have drinkers pay more of their fair share for the damages caused and costs incurred."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study compares athlete and truck driver, identical twins

July 20, 2018
When it comes to being fit, are genes or lifestyle—nature or nurture—more important? Researchers at San Francisco State University, CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly, Pomona removed the nature part of the equation by studying ...

Secondhand smoke causing thousands of still births in developing countries

July 20, 2018
The study reveals that more than 40% of all pregnant women in Pakistan are exposed to secondhand smoke—causing approximately 17,000 still births in a year.

Eating iron-fortified grain improves students' attention, memory

July 18, 2018
Adolescent students in a rural school in India who consumed an iron-biofortified version of the grain pearl millet exhibited improved attention and memory compared to those who consumed conventional pearl millet, according ...

Sugar improves memory in over-60s, helping them work smarter

July 18, 2018
Sugar improves memory in older adults – and makes them more motivated to perform difficult tasks at full capacity – according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Vaping tied to blood clots—in mice

July 18, 2018
A new study involving mice raises another concern about the danger of e-cigarettes in humans after experiments showed that short-term exposure to the device's vapors appeared to increase the risk of clot formation.

Lowering hospitals' Medicare costs proves difficult

July 18, 2018
A payment system that provides financial incentives for hospitals that reduce health-care costs for Medicare patients did not lower costs as intended, according to a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine ...

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.