Sunday, January 24, 2010

Raise the tax on alcohol to pay for the services needed to repair the harm done by it.

There will be a series of articles on alcohol beverage tax policies as they affect substance abuse and public health on this blog.

Increasing tax on alcoholic beverages does two things:

1. It reduces teenage drinking and over-consumption by adults.

2. It makes tax money available to address the "harm related" consequences of alcohol abuse such as criminal justice services, health related problems, and the need for social welfare services.

Does raising the tax on alcoholic beverages accomplish this? Absolutely.

See the study which appeared in the June, 2009, issue of the journal, Addiction, which found the following on a meta-analysis of 112 studies:

Conclusions A large literature establishes that beverage alcohol prices and taxes are related inversely to drinking. Effects are large compared to other prevention policies and programs. Public policies that raise prices of alcohol are an effective means to reduce drinking.

Ron Bogle a former Superior Court Judge in North Carolina has the following to say according to an article in the Join Together Web Site:

"Legislators are desperate for money," said Jernigan. "It's a win-win situation: raise revenues and reduce a public-health problem."

Overall, the taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick when one considers the costs of the alcohol induced harm in our society compared to the tax money raised from alcohol to help pay for these services.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services in facing cuts this year in the Governor Patterson's Budget Reduction Plan. Needed services that address alcohol induced harm will be cut as well. Why not have the people who use alcohol pay for the cost of these services? Seems simple enough to me - "If you want to play, you got to pay."

GCASA staff deal with the devastating effects of alcohol on individuals, families, neighborhoods, employers, and our State every day. Unfortunately, GCASA has had to cut some its services because of a lack of resources to provide those services even when there continues to be high demand. The reason that there has been no increase in governmental funding and reimbursement is that the State has no money, the counties have no money, etc. Well, people seem to have the money to drink. They drink and drive, drink and assault, drink and rape, drink and disrupt our neighborhoods and communities. To just blame the miscreant is to miss the social responsibility that breweries and distilleries make buying and consuming their products appear desirable and attractive. The state licenses the sale of these beverages and realizes some tax revenue from these sales even though very little of it goes for the treatment and response to the problems these very sales create.

As a civil and moral society, taking responsibility for our actions is key to our continued success, but continuing to sell intoxicating beverages and not provide treatment for the problems they create is an irresponsible social policy and an indication of poor governance among a citizenry which deserves better.

This is article #1 on a series on Alcohol Tax Policies.

No comments: