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Public Health, Taxes

Effects of alcohol tax and price policies on health

Tags: , , , | Last updated: April 6, 2011

Last updated: April 6, 2011


The United States sees about 85,000 alcohol-related deaths a year, making pricing and regulation of the industry an important public health issue with broad consequences.

A 2010 meta-study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “Effects of Alcohol Tax and Price Policies on Morbidity and Mortality: A Systematic Review,” attempted to estimate the correlation between alcohol price and risky behavior that resulted in negative consequences. Researchers reviewed the content of 12 databases and 50 articles containing 340 separate estimates of the relationship between alcohol prices and measures of morbidity and mortality.

The study’s findings include:

  • Doubling alcohol taxes would have the effect of reducing traffic crash deaths by 11%, sexually transmitted disease by 6%, violence by 2%, and crime by 1.4%.
  • Some 60% of studies on drug use showed a significant decrease in such use associated with an increase in alcohol taxes.
  • Overall, doubling the alcohol tax would reduce alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35%.

The authors state that the evidence is “beyond any reasonable doubt” that raising the price of alcohol reduces both consumption and the rate of adverse health outcomes.

Tags: crime, cars, drugs, metastudy

Writer: | April 6, 2011

Citation: Wagenaar AC.; et al. "Effects of Alcohol Tax and Price Policies on Morbidity and Mortality: A Systematic Review," American Journal of Public Health, November, 2010, Vol.100, Issue 11, 2270-8. DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2009.186007.

Analysis assignments

Read the American Journal of Public Health study "Effects of Alcohol Tax and Price Policies on Morbidity and Mortality: A Systematic Review."

  1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
  2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
  3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

See the issue-related NPR story "Strapped States Look to Alcohol for Shot of Cash."

  1. If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?

Newswriting assignments

  1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
  2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
  3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
  4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.

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