Higher alcohol taxes strongly protect against binge drinking, according to a new study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that a 1 percent increase in alcohol beverage prices from taxes was associated with a 1.4 percent decrease in the proportion of adults who binge drink. Most previous studies have examined the effect of taxes on average consumption, while the effect of taxes on high-level drinking has been controversial.
“This is really significant for public health,” said lead author Dr. Ziming Xuan, assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, explaining that binge drinking causes more than half of nearly 90,000 alcohol-attributable deaths in the U.S. each year, and accounts for three-quarters of the $224 billion in annual economic costs.
Taxes accounted for approximately 20 percent of the difference in binge drinking prevalence rates across U.S. states. The state with the highest beer combined taxes – Tennessee — had the lowest binge drinking rate (6.6 percent) in 2010, while states with low alcohol taxes, such as Montana, Wisconsin, and Delaware, had relatively high binge drinking rates.