Alcohol taxes save lives

From the May 4, New Yorker:

There is also a clear, demonstrated relationship between the cost of alcohol and the number of drunk-driving deaths. Research has shown that raising social awareness around drunk driving—as groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have done—is not enough. In most Western European countries, the sales tax on alcohol ranges between sixteen and twenty-five per cent. In the United States, it is somewhere between one-half and a third of the European rate—and because the federal excise is a flat amount (not a percentage of the sales price) it falls every year with inflation.

“There are extremely negative outcomes that are responsive to the price of alcohol, like highway fatalities,” the economist Philip J. Cook, who has written extensively on the subject, says. “I estimated that the tax increase associated with the 1991 excise tax saved sixty-five hundred lives the first year from trauma-related accidents of various kinds. It was an extraordinarily effective measure from the public-safety perspective. What is distressing to me is that it has been allowed to erode. And there is a large segment in Congress seeking to repeal the 1991 increase entirely.”

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/the-engineers-lament

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

1 thought on “Alcohol taxes save lives”

  1. I addition to trauma deaths, alcohol has been designated as a risk factor for many diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

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