Increasing Alcohol Tax Could Lower Rate of Alcohol-Related Deaths
Based on the findings from their new study, the researchers found that hundreds of deaths caused by pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis, gastric disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancers from chronic heavy alcohol consumption could be avoided by increasing the state alcohol tax. Their study—the first to compare state legislation on alcohol tax and alcohol-related deaths among the population—will be available in the November issue of the scientific journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Lead researchers Dr. Mildred Maldonado-Molina and Dr. Alexander Wagenaar compared the changes made to alcohol tax rates in the state of Florida from January 1969 to December 2004 with Floridian deaths caused by alcohol-related diseases during this time.
According to the researchers, the last time Florida’s state legislature increased the alcohol tax was in 1983, when the per gallon tax on beer rose from $0.40 to $0.48, the per gallon tax on wine rose from $1.75 to $2.25, and the per gallon tax on spirits rose from $4.75 to $6.50. These state taxes are still in effect today—a quarter of the equivalent of what Florida’s alcohol tax was during the 1960s. The decrease in the tax rate was caused by inflation over the past few decades, but the state legislation has not made any changes for several years to adjust the rate against the value of the U.S. dollar.
Then the researchers examined 432 monthly observations of mortality among the Florida population over the 36-year period. Researchers ascertained causes of death from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics and available information on Floridian death certificates. Researchers controlled such variables as non-alcohol-related deaths, changing economic conditions, as well as comparison to other states’ rates of alcohol-related deaths to ensure that deaths included in the study were specific to alcohol tax effects. The researchers left out deaths caused by vehicular accidents, crime, and violence associated with alcohol use from the study.
As a result, researchers found that significant decreases in mortality related to chronic heavy alcohol use were linked to legislative increases in the state alcohol tax. Increases of 10% in Florida’s alcohol tax caused a 2.2% reduction in alcohol-related deaths, showing a significant decline in the frequency of deaths among the size of the population. By adjusting the Florida real alcohol tax to parallel the tax rate from 1983, researchers estimate that almost 600 to 800 lives per year could be saved from alcohol-related diseases. If the real alcohol tax rate were adjusted to the 1960s levels, almost 1,500 deaths per year could be prevented.
Had the researchers included other alcohol-related causes of death other than alcohol diseases in their study, the relationship between state legislation on alcohol tax policy and mortality rate would have been even stronger.
Source: Medical News Today, Death Rates Among Chronic Heavy Drinkers Can Be Reduced By Alcohol Taxes, August 10, 2010