Can Raising Prices Help Curb Alcoholism?
In the past few decades, we’ve seen a significant drop in cigarette use thanks (in part) to a change in public opinion and higher carton prices. Now that same logic may be applied to alcohol, with government officials discussing raising the price of booze nationwide.
Interestingly enough, it was President Donald Trump’s recent tax plan that stirred up the conversation. The new laws actually cut the federal excise tax on alcohol by around 16 percent. In the wake of that, economists are proposing a second policy that could be used to raise the price of beer, wine and liquor. Taking a cue from Canada and the UK (who already have initiatives like this in place), this would actually become more targeted than a tax and create a minimum price point for all booze.
In a lengthy article published by Vox, the concept was explored in further detail. Their reporting showed that 88,000 U.S. fatalities are linked to alcohol each year, making it the third leading cause of preventable death. It also showed that the number is increasing and blamed “cheap booze” as the culprit.
Indeed, alcohol is one of America’s more affordable vices. Inexpensive beer and liquor bottles are readily available and (according to Vox) are the products most closely tied to U.S. deaths. It’s not the fine wine connoisseurs who are drinking themselves to death, it’s often low income alcoholics with little or no medical coverage.
So how would a minimum price raise work? Based on the models other countries use, it would be based on a percentage. Canada, for example, added a 10% increase to its alcoholic beverages and has since seen a 8% reduction in consumption, a 9% reduction in hospital admissions and a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol caused deaths. Impressive stats, if you ask us.
Vox’s German Lopez explained the concept in further detail in his article, which made a point in differentiating it from a broader national tax.
“An alcohol tax affects all alcoholic beverages,” he wrote. “But a minimum price hits a smaller pool of cheaper products. In doing this, the minimum price targets excessive drinkers, because they tend to be, according to the research, bargain shoppers, while moderate drinkers are less likely to hunt down the lowest prices.”
The piece went on to illustrate some compelling data on how something as simple as a 50 cent hike on Bud Light six packs could save thousands of lives a year. We encourage all of our readers to look deeper into the research and support new measures that will not only lower addiction rates, but also save lives.