Effects of Alcohol Tax and Price Policies on Morbidity and Mortality

The issue of alcohol prices and taxes is becoming more prominent as state and local officials assess historically low alcohol tax rates, political opposition to income and property tax increases, budget shortfalls, and positive experience with tobacco tax increases. Over 100 papers have been published over the past several decades examining alcohol tax and price levels and their impact. In this article, the authors systematically reviewed the effects of alcohol taxes and prices on alcohol-related morbidity and mortality to assess their public health impact.

The authors examined 12 databases for studies that examined morbidity and mortality and their relationship with alcohol taxes and prices. The information was then coded for several study characteristics and effects.

The authors found 50 articles that contained 340 estimates. Looking at the aggregated results, the studies showed that beverage alcohol prices and taxes were significantly and inversely related to all outcome categories examined. Among other effects, the authors note that doubling the alcohol tax would reduce alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35 percent, traffic crash deaths by 11 percent and sexually transmitted disease by 6 percent. These results suggest that public policies affecting alcoholic beverage prices significantly affect alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.