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Thread: Timely article-- Study: Paying more for alcohol saves lives

  1. #1
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    Timely article-- Study: Paying more for alcohol saves lives

    From CNN. This may seem OT at first, until you realize that guns, alcohol and tobacco are all in the same boat-- they are seen as Vice Items. Potential tax hikes on ammo have been discussed a lot here since the election.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/11/13...ths/index.html

    By Madison Park
    CNN

    (CNN) -- Higher taxes on alcohol can make a night out more expensive but could save lives, according to a study released Thursday.


    After Alaska raised its alcohol taxes, the number of alcohol-related deaths dropped, a study says.

    Each time the state of Alaska raised its alcoholic beverage tax, fewer deaths were caused by or related to alcohol, according to the study that examined 28 years of data.

    When Alaska raised its alcohol tax in 1983, deaths caused by or related to alcohol dropped 29 percent. A 2002 tax increase was followed by an 11 percent reduction, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

    "Increasing alcohol taxes saves lives; that's the bottom line," said the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander Wagenaar, a professor at the University of Florida's Department of Epidemiology and Health Policy Research. "The tax increase caused some reduction in consumption of alcohol. The reduction saved lives."

    The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked the number of deaths for every quarter in Alaska from 1976 to 2004.

    Using information from death certificates, Wagenaar and the co-authors compiled the number of deaths caused by alcohol, such as alcohol poisoning and alcoholic liver disease, and deaths linked to alcohol, such as cirrhosis and chronic pancreatitis. Deaths caused by alcohol-related car accidents or violence were not included.

    Deaths from Alaska were compared with data from other states to control for nationwide factors, such as population growth and advanced medical care.

    The authors found 23 fewer deaths per year after a 1983 tax hike and 21 fewer deaths per year after a 2002 increase.

    Researchers chose to study Alaska after a political debate over the most recent alcohol tax increase in the Last Frontier state.

    "No other state in recent years has increased alcohol taxes in the way that Alaska did in 2002," Wagenaar said. "Basically, they conducted the experiment, and we studied it."

    Although Alaska has a population of fewer than a million people, the state "is not highly different when looking at epidemiological trends," he said, estimating that about two-thirds of Americans drink.

    "There's no reason to think the experience in Alaska would be different than anywhere else," Wagenaar said. "The study looks at the responsiveness of drinking."

    The Finland study

    Researchers in Finland found similar results when examining the relationship between alcohol taxes and alcohol-positive deaths.

    Health Library
    MayoClinic.com: Alcohol and your health
    MayoClinic.com: Alcohol poisoning
    For years, Finland had high alcohol taxes. In March 2004, the Finnish government lowered the taxes nearly 33 to 44 percent to protect domestic sales because officials worried that patrons would flock to neighboring nations in search of cheaper booze.

    Consumption levels in Finland increased 50 percent from the previous year. Finnish researchers also found that arrests for drunken and disorderly conduct increased by 11 percent after taxes were lowered.

    University of Helsinki researchers used postmortem toxicology tests to determine that alcohol was the underlying cause of death for 1,860 Finns that year, a 20 percent increase from 2003.

    "Taxation has indeed been found to be the most cost-effective measure in reducing alcohol consumption," the authors concluded in a 2007 article published in the Addiction journal. "Raising alcohol tax level has low costs and is effective in reducing alcohol consumption and thus alcohol-related harms."

    U.S. policy

    Unlike with cigarettes, supporters of higher beverage taxes say alcohol has largely avoided scrutiny in the United States.

    "When the excise tax on tobacco went up, consumption went down and the diseases associated with tobacco also went down," Wagenaar said. "Now, with the current study, we're finding the same thing for alcohol. Simply adjusting taxes has quite a noticeable rate on alcohol deaths. They parallel each other quite a bit."

    In addition to public health implications, state governments should re-examine their alcohol excise taxes on for fiscal reasons, said George Hacker, director of Alcohol Policies Project for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Nearly half of the states have had the same alcohol taxes for more than 20 years, and Wyoming hasn't raised its tax on alcohol since the 1930s, thus not keeping up with inflation, Hacker said. The beer tax in Wyoming is less than 2 cents per gallon.

    "Given state budgets are in the toilet bowl, it's an available source of revenue that has not been looked to for a very long time," Hacker said. "The tax increases are long overdue. The product doesn't pay its way in covering economic and social costs associated with its use."

    Alcohol industry

    The American Beverage Licensees, which represents retailers of beer, wine and spirits, opposes alcohol tax increases.

    "Based on historical evidence, raising taxes on alcohol beverages would have a highly negative impact on the economy," said Harry Wiles, executive director of the American Beverage Licensees, in an e-mailed statement. "Increasing alcohol taxes could lead diminishing returns for the government should responsible, moderate consumers decrease their consumption."

    Raising taxes would penalize more than 100 million responsible alcohol consumers and would not deter the few abusers, who don't cut back when price fluctuates, Wiles said.

    "Any across the board tax increase would not target the problem drinker but would simply penalize those who enjoy wine and spirits and drink responsibly," Wine and Spirits Wholesaler of America CEO and President Craig Wolf said in an e-mailed statement.

    The industry also sponsors social responsibility programs to help educate consumers, he added.

    Efforts to raise alcohol taxes are often thwarted and labeled neo-Prohibitionist by the alcohol industry, Hacker said.

    "The legacy of Prohibition leaves sour tastes about doing anything about curbing alcohol use," he said. "It conjures images of Prohibition. The industry stokes it as much as it can. The industry uses the imagery and metaphor of freedom and civil right, almost like it is a civil right to drink, given it was once prohibited."

    In the latest barometer of American public opinion, Maine voters overwhelmingly rejected a state law that would've increased the excise tax on alcoholic beverages on Election Day.

    The law would've increased excise taxes by 116 percent for beer and wine to fund a controversial state health care program.

    Fed Up With Taxes, a Maine coalition of chambers of commerce and various business associations, fought the law.

    Ted O'Meara, spokesman of the group, said the argument that higher taxes would reduce alcohol consumption didn't enter the debate, as hard liquor was exempt from the tax hikes.

    "Our main point was that this was a massive new tax increase," O'Meara said.

    Voters rejected the law by a 2-to-1 ratio.
    So they are making a point with alcohol and tobacco that will be made with guns. Increasing taxes on ___________ will save lives, therefore we should do it. Think of the Children.

    Kudos to Maine for striking down an increase.
    Eloi-- Tastes Like Chicken

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    I like where these people are going! This way, only the wealthy can afford alcohol!

    And here we've been going about this all wrong -- enforcing laws is clearly not the way to make sure that the laws are obeyed.

    Why bother making and enforcing reasonable laws when you can force certain classes to abstain from social participation. Our's is a society built upon the rule and whim of the privileged -- a financially stratified society is something to be aspired to. A free nation is totally 1776. Get with the program, people!

    [/sarcasm]
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    That was the purpose of the 1934 NFA, to place a tax on certain firearms that would put them out of reach of the common citizen.

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    I thought the purpose was to keep Treasury agents employed after end of alcohol prohibition. Just like the reason for the war on (some) drugs is to keep up employment in the "justice" system.

    Anyway, this is just showing that some people love the idea of social engineering through the tax code. Ugh.

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    If it's money they want, they could just crack down on the welfare system.
    Welfare is doled out easily and scrutinized rarely.
    Day in and day out I work in peoples houses throughout my area. Some of my clients are not even held responsible to pay for basic home maintenance, the government and (partially government funded) "charities" foot the bill.

    Of my clients who are being "financially assisted", perhaps 1 in 4 of them are not deserving of it (in my opinion). Unclaimed income earning residents who are "off paper" in various ways would likely nullify the handouts if they were caught by the catchers... oh wait, what catchers?

    About the topic of potentially rediculous ammunition taxes, it is not money "they" want.

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    This is the stuff that is (disingenuously) called "libertarian paternalism." As you might guess, half of that description is honest.

    (The 'libertarian' part? Goes the argument, "Well, we're not *prohibiting* anything -- just providing economic disincentives for the decisions we think are wrong." As Paul47 says, it's social engineering through the tax code.)

    timothy

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    The problem with this approach, as relates to firearms, though, is that alcohol and tobacco aren't protected by the Bill of Rights.

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    Some municipalities and indeed states would be hit hard without there coffers being filled with the revenue generated by DUI/DWI offenses. Some drunk drivers do 0get in accidents which is an entire different level, but almost all drunk drivers get at least one DUI/DWI eventually. In some states that is commanding at the very least $3000+ per offense.
    During one crackdown on the DUI/DWI in one state between 8/19/2005 and 9/5/2005, 583 people were arrested for Driving While Intoxicated. For that month alone that was a collection of over 1.7 million over the next three years. That's a whole lot of revenue. Just a thought........


    And I agree with kevindsingleton... alcohol & tobacco are not constituationally protected.

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    Constitutional protection should apply to anything within the philosophical framework implied by the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution itself.

    Marriage, for instance, isn't listed in the BoR, but I maintain it's sure contained within the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Driving drunk on a public thoroughfare? Not protected -- just like potshots for fun at your neighbor's attic windows aren't part of any protected right, even if you say 'But I was pursuing happiness at the time!'

    But drinking alcohol in general? I'd say it's protected enough that a widespread prohbition of that might even require a, y'know, Constitutional amendment

    timothy

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    It's one thing to fine people for breaking a law (e.g. DUI), but another entirely to levy increasing taxes to engage in perfectly legal activity (e.g. smoking or drinking).

    Interesting to note also that the three activities under discussion here are controlled by the same Federal Agency (BATFE).

    The tough part will be convincing Congress, and eventually SCOTUS that an increased tax on guns/ammo will represent an unreasonable infringement.
    Eloi-- Tastes Like Chicken

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    But drinking alcohol in general? I'd say it's protected enough that a widespread prohbition of that might even require a, y'know, Constitutional amendment
    Heheheheh. That's a pretty sharp observation. You get a gold star for the day.

    Taxing legal behavior in order to prevent illegal behavior is illogical. Whether you pay $1 or $100 for a beer has no bearing whatsoever on your choice of transportation. If anything, arbitrarily raising the price will discourage otherwise decent folk from paying cab fare.
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    Echo?
    Last edited by JCMAG; November 15th, 2008 at 03:30 PM. Reason: Duplicate post via jittering interwebs
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