Higher Taxes Reduces Binge Drinking Study Shows

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Did you know that higher taxes on alcohol can actually reduce binge drinking? Thanks to new data from a study by the Boston University School of Public Health, research shows that even a one percent increase in sin tax can reduce adult binge drinking. The research study has been published in the journal Addiction and specifically shows that a higher alcohol tax can be an effective method to deter binge drinking, lower alcohol-related deaths, and play a significant role in economic gains for cities with high alcohol consumption rates.

This theory is not new, there have been prior studies performed that looked at the effects that taxes had on alcohol consumption levels and the results have always had a somewhat controversial conclusion. Ziming Xuan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Community Health Sciences at BUSPH was the lead author the study. He said that “This is really significant for public health," because the public health value comes from a reduction in mortality and economic losses.

The study found that binge drinking accounts for more than 45,000 alcohol-attributable deaths in the U.S. each year. These deaths are responsible for three-fourths of the $224 billion in annual economic costs. This latest research proves that as the combined alcohol taxes rise, the rate of binge drinking falls. These alcohol taxes accounted for about 20% of the difference in binge drinking rates across the country. Based on the data at hand, Tennessee had the highest beer combined taxes and the lowest binge drinking rate of 6.6% compared to states like Montana, Wisconsin, and Delaware where binge drinking rates are high and alcohol taxes are relatively low.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that binge drinking is when men consume five or more drinks in one occasion and women drink four or more per occasion. The number of binge drinking adults in the U.S was compiled using surveys taken from 2000-2010 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. However, researchers participating in this latest study discovered a new measure that did a better job of displaying the benefits that preventive measures had on limiting binge drinking. By using this new comprehensive measure, the researchers found that these combined taxes had about double the impact on binge drinking, compared to only using excise taxes.

Dr. Xuan and co-author, Dr. Timothy Naimi, stated that “This study emphasizes the importance of assessing multiple co-existing tax types — and possibly tax structure — for characterizing the relationship between tax and related outcomes, evaluating the effects of tax policy interventions, and for planning tax policy interventions."

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