Nav: Home

Maryland's 2011 alcohol sales tax reduced alcohol sales, study suggests

April 11, 2016

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.

"The vast majority of existing research on the public health impact of alcohol taxes has examined alcohol excise taxes, which are based on the amount of alcohol in a container but not its price," says study co-author David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY's director and an associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Health, Behavior and Society. "The findings of this paper suggest that increased alcohol sales taxes may be as effective as increased excise taxes in reducing alcohol consumption, and sales taxes have an added advantage of rising with inflation."

For their study, the researchers compared alcohol sales in Maryland's 24 counties over the 18-month period before the sales tax went into effect with sales over the following 18 months.

Consumers often alter their behavior in response to changes in prices. Since sales taxes are a percentage add-on per dollar, consumers pay more for more expensive items. This likely explains why the alcohol sales tax increase in Maryland had a smaller effect on beer and wine relative to spirits, as the tax increases were lower in absolute terms.

In addition to being a significant cause of death, excessive alcohol consumption cost the country $249 billion in 2010, or approximately $2.05 per drink. In Maryland, excessive alcohol use is responsible for an average of 1,318 deaths each year and cost the state $4.96 billion ($2.22 per drink) in 2010.

The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent panel of public health and prevention experts, recommends increasing alcohol taxes as an effective strategy for reducing these negative outcomes. Numerous studies have found that when alcohol consumption decreases so do the negative health and social outcomes related to excessive consumption.

For example, a recently published study found that gonorrhea cases in Maryland dropped significantly in the 18 months following the increase in the state's alcohol tax. The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, saw a 24 percent reduction in gonorrhea rates, or 2,400 fewer cases, in the state.

"Maryland's experience with raising its alcohol sales tax is a powerful case study," said Jernigan. "The potential public health benefit of increasing alcohol sales taxes as a strategy for reducing excessive drinking in states across the country is considerable."

"Impact of Maryland's 2011 Alcohol Sales Tax Increase on Alcoholic Beverage Sales" was written by Marissa Esser, PhD, MPH, Hugh Waters, PhD, Mieka Smart, DrPH, MHS, and David Jernigan, PhD.
-end-
Preparation of this study was supported in part by Cooperative Agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (5U58DP002027). Mieka Smart's work on this project was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant T32DA007292. The contents of this study are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles:

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.
BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.
The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.
Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.
Bloomberg American Health Initiative releases special public health reports supplement
With US life expectancy now on the decline for two consecutive years, the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is releasing a supplement to Public Health Reports, the scholarly journal of the US Surgeon General.
Data does the heavy lifting: Encouraging new public health approaches to promote the health benefits of muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE)
According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, almost 75 percent of US adults do not comply with public health guidelines recommending two or more muscle-strengthening exercise (MSE) sessions a week, with nearly 60 percent of the population doing no MSE at all.
The Lancet Public Health: Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health
Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fats from plant sources associated with lower risk of mortality compared to those that replace carbohydrates with proteins and fat from animal sources.
Mass. public safety, public health agencies collaborate to address the opioid epidemic
A new study shows that public health and public safety agencies established local, collaborative programs in Massachusetts to connect overdose survivors and their personal networks with addiction treatment, harm reduction, and other community support services following a non-fatal overdose.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.