Maryland’s 2011 increase in the alcohol sales tax appears to have led to fewer purchases of beer, wine, and liquor in the state, suggesting reduced alcohol use, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research indicates.
Specifically, sales of spirits (commonly referred to as “liquor”) were 5.1 percent lower, beer sales were 3.2 percent lower, and wine sales were 2.5 percent lower. Alcohol sales are widely accepted as a proxy for alcohol consumption.
The study, led by researchers at the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is believed to be the first to examine the impact of alcohol sales taxes on sales of multiple types of alcoholic beverages. Earlier studies have suggested that excise taxes on alcohol can lead to fewer alcohol sales and reduced consumption.
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Alcohol is more affordable in the U.S. now than at any time in the past sixty years, according to other research.
The new study is published online in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. The researchers found that the three percentage point increase in the alcohol sales tax, from six percent to nine percent, implemented in July 2011 was associated with a 3.8 percent decrease in total alcohol sales compared to what would have been expected if the tax had not been implemented.