Alcohol Taxation Helps Prevent Violence
In an article for the Scientific American Kunmi Sobowale, a mental health care specialist, wrote about the aspects and levels of alcohol harm and the best prevention measure: alcohol taxation.
Sobowole lists evidence about alcohol-related violence, including interpersonal violence, domestic violence, violence against children and gun violence; mental ill-health, self-harm and suicide.
How do we break this deadly connection? As doctors, we should always ask about alcohol use, violence and access to firearms, simply to raise awareness among our patients. But there is another strategy that would be highly effective: raise alcohol taxes. Yes, alcohol is taxed, but the taxes have not kept up with inflation, making drinking more affordable than it has been in decades. Evidence shows that driving the price up would lower drinking’s tragic human cost.
An analysis incorporating results from 112 different studies found that raising the price of alcohol decreases alcohol consumption. People living in states with higher alcohol taxes are less likely to binge drink. In 2011 Maryland increased their alcohol sales tax by 50 percent. The tax was associated with a decrease in the purchase of alcohol in the state. Compared with other U.S. states, there was much less drinking. Further, there were additional benefits, such as fewer cases of gonorrhea in the state. Similar results were found in Illinois. Indeed, the effect of increased alcohol taxes on curtailing violence has been shown in many studies.
Taxes are more effective than most other alcohol-consumption interventions, and they garner revenue for local governments. States can use that money to support programs that aid victims of violence. Taxation also drives down youth drinking, which, in turn, lowers the chance that young people will grow into heavy drinkers.
If policy makers are serious about violence prevention—to say nothing of reducing car and other accidents—they need to reduce alcohol use. Taxation is a simple and powerful way to do so.”