Increasing Alcohol Taxes Could Save Lives, Florida Study Shows

Increasing Alcohol Taxes Could Save Lives, Florida Study Shows

Several studies have shown that alcohol taxes affect drinking behaviors, but few studies have looked at the effects of taxes on alcohol-related death. Researchers from the University of Florida analyzed the effects of multiple changes in alcohol tax rates in Florida from 1969 to 2004 on disease-related mortality, and found that raising alcohol taxes would prevent 600 to 800 deaths per year caused by alcohol-related diseases. Florida hasn’t changed alcohol taxes since 1983.

The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 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.

The researchers examined non-alcoholic deaths in Florida and other states’ rates of alcohol-related deaths using data from the US National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics. The data is based on information provided by physicians on individual death certificates.

Over the 36-year period, they observed 432 deaths per month in Florida. Through the study, they estimate that a 10 percent increase in tax would lead to a 22 percent decline in alcohol-related deaths. The study did not include deaths from alcohol-related accidents, crime, or violence.

Maldonado-Molina said that their study shows that raising taxes on alcohol can affect the death rate from cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, gastric diseases, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.

A previous study by the same researchers looked at the effects of substantial tax increases in Alaska, and found that the increased taxes helped reduce the alcohol-related mortality rate. The researchers decided to conduct a similar study in Florida because Alaska has a substantially higher rate of alcohol-related deaths than the national average and is very different in characteristics when compared to other states.

The last time alcohol taxes were raised in Florida was in 1981, when the per-gallon tax on beer increased from $0.40 to $0.48, the per-gallon wine tax went from $1.75 to $2.25, and the per-gallon tax on spirits went from $4.75 to $6.50.

Wagenaar explained that due to inflation, Florida’s alcohol taxes are a quarter of what they were in the 1960s, so returning them to the 1960s levels would save about 1,500 lives per year.

Sources: Science Daily, Alcohol Taxes Can Reduce Death Rates Among Chronic Heavy Drinkers, August 9, 2010

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Effects of Alcohol Taxes on Alcohol-Related Mortality in Florida: Time-Series Analyses From 1969 to 2004, July 23, 2010

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