Should the U.S. Raise Alcohol Tax?
Researchers in both the U.S. and globally have gathered indisputable evidence that alcohol is linked to violence. In fact, experts say that alcohol is a contributing factor to nearly two-thirds of partner violence incidents in the U.S.
Also, drinking alcohol increases the risk of physical and sexual violence, as well as the severity of violence. According to the World Health Organization, not only does alcohol abuse increase the incidence of intimate partner violence, but the victims are most often women.
What About Children?
Children are also at great risk. Parents who are heavy drinkers are more likely to engage in physical child abuse, and children who reside in neighborhoods with more bars and liquor stores are at a greater risk for maltreatment.
Indeed, according to Child Protective Services, 10% of child abuse cases reported in the U.S. are related to alcohol use.
But does correlation equate to causation, in all of these cases? After all, it could be that persons who are prone to physical abuse are often more vulnerable to substance abuse, given certain variables, such as genetics and environment. Similarly, bars and liquor stores may be found in areas where people of lower socioeconomic status reside, which also may increase the risk of child and domestic abuse.
Although not frequently reported in the media, alcohol regularly plays a role in gun violence. In fact, men are just as likely to die from firearm incidents related to alcohol use as car accidents involving drunk driving.
Also, many states allow persons to carry guns into businesses that serve alcohol. The laws involving alcohol use and guns are quite lax compared to drunk driving laws. Moreover, the commission of a crime while intoxicated, even when a gun is involved, is rarely a cause for someone to or lose permission to carry a firearm.
But are these gentlemen acting irresponsibly or aggressively simply due to intoxication, or are those who are impulsive and aggressive simply more likely to drink? Most likely, it is a combination of the two.
Intoxication also increases the chance that someone will attempt or commit suicide with a firearm – the deadliest method of suicide used in the U.S.
Some believe that this type of impulsivity occurs because alcohol impairs judgment and reduces inhibitions.
This fact is true – however, studies have shown that people genetically prone to impulsivity and rash decision-making are also prone to substance abuse.
Undoubtedly, there is a link to alcoholism and violence – however, in many ways, this maybe just a case of the chicken-or-the-egg scenario.
But then, there is also evidence that violence contributes to more violence, as well as substance abuse among victims of domestic violence. Moreover, both the partners and children of abusers are more likely to use alcohol later in life.
Ultimately, all of this chaos can lead victims to enter additional abusive relationships, be re-victimized, or victimize others.
It appears to be a vicious cycle – it could be that some alcohol users are more prone to violence, and alcoholism itself perpetuates the cycle. Then, as the cycle spins, it gets larger and larger and just continually sucks up others into its destruction.
Is Increasing Alcohol Tax The Answer?
Logically, we know through economics that price increases decrease demand. Therefore, logically we should see a decrease in alcohol abuse if the price of alcohol rises. Modern research suggests that alcohol tax may be a potentially effective solution to consider.
The truth is, alcohol tax has not kept up with inflation – moreover, alcohol is more affordable than it used to be. By increasing alcohol tax, we could decrease demand and probably reduce violence against women and children, gun violence, and perhaps even drunk driving accidents.
According to an analysis that tallied results from 112 studies, increasing the cost of alcohol decreases alcohol consumption. That is, people who live in states with more alcohol tax are less likely to binge drink.
For example, Maryland increased their alcohol tax in 2011 by 3%, a move that led to a decrease in alcohol purchases in the state.
Compared to other states, there was simply less drinking in Maryland.
And ultimately, less consumption of alcohol is linked to less violence – many studies have found evidence that increasing taxes results in reduced violence. So in the end, it doesn’t matter if genetics and environment fuel alcoholism – if people cannot afford alcohol (or as much alcohol) they are less likely to drink and violence decreases.
In conclusion, I contend that raising taxes on alcohol is a viable solution – and probably more effective than trying to crack down on gun control.
That said, imposing severe taxes could result in more homemade alcohols, which are unregulated and may be particularly unsafe, especially liquor. Therefore, this approach needs careful consideration. The good news is, decreased access to alcohol does not appear to lead to a transition to illicit drug use.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology