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Press Room - May 2004

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Increase in State Alcohol taxes

New Poll Shows Voters Want To Use Funds For Health Related and Other Programs

CHICAGO – A new national survey on alcohol taxes released today by The American Medical Association Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse reveals that 90 percent of Americans are concerned about teenage and underage drinking and that voters, by a margin of two to one, favor a tax increase on alcohol in their states to help fund prevention programs.

“Alcohol abuse leads to serious and costly health problems, dangerous rates of car accidents and assaults and long-term damage to teenagers' developing brains and bodies,” AMA President-Elect John C. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H., “So it makes perfect sense that the high cost of alcohol abuse should be remedied with revenue-generating taxes on the product itself. This new data demonstrates that Americans overwhelming agree and support on how state governments can use the additional funds to cure budget deficits and cuts.”

Conducted by the Mellman Group and QEV Analytics with 800 registered voters, the survey showed strong support among Democrats, Independents and Republicans for increases in so-called "sin taxes" like tobacco and alcohol to reduce state budget deficits.

Respondents supported using revenue from alcohol tax increases to fund education, health care and law enforcement related to drinking.

The poll also demonstrated that most Americans do not know the alcohol tax rate in their state. Once given that information, a majority of voters supported an increase and one third of those believed alcohol taxes should be raised “a lot.”

“As with smoking, the price of alcohol matters, especially with teenagers,” said Dr. Richard A. Yoast, Director of the American Medical Association's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse . “Just as price increases for tobacco reduce consumption and disease, higher alcohol prices are proven to reduce everything from violent crimes to rape. The difference is taxes on cigarettes have been increased frequently and significantly over the years while alcohol taxes have been astoundingly behind the times.”

States like Connecticut and Pennsylvania are examples of stagnant taxes on alcohol. Tobacco taxes have been raised twice in the past two years for a total tax of $1.01 per pack in Connecticut and $1.04 per pack in Pennsylvania. Beer taxes, on the other hand, have not been raised in Pennsylvania since 1947 and in Connecticut since 1989. The tax is only 11.25 cents (Connecticut) and 5.6 cents (Pennsylvania) per six-pack of beer.

The poll showed that respondents were more likely to favor raising alcohol and tobacco taxes than several other potential remedies for dealing with state budget deficits. While 65 percent supported alcohol tax increases, voters “opposed” other solutions, such as increasing state sales tax (75 percent opposed), increasing state income tax (76 percent opposed), reducing social services (77 percent opposed), reducing Medicaid (86 percent opposed) and reducing funding for education (91 percent opposed).

The AMA noted that several organizations working to reduce underage drinking are also working to promote alcohol tax increases in their states including:

  • Members of Texans Standing Tall are promoting an alcohol excise tax increase to address the state's school finance crisis;
  • The Georgia Alcohol Policy Partnership Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking supported Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's recent proposed alcohol excise tax increases;
  • The Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking has been working with legislators from both parties to get a bill on alcohol taxes introduced as a top priority for the 2005 session; and
  • The Missouri Youth/Adult Alliance Against Underage Drinking mobilized statewide support for a recent committee hearing on increasing taxes on all alcoholic beverages.

Through its Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, the AMA has taken a leadership role to reduce the harms caused by alcohol and other drug abuse, particularly underage drinking. The AMA Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse directs two national programs, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: “Reducing Underage Drinking Through Coalitions” and “A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking Among College Students.” More information on these programs is available at: www.alcoholpolicysolutions.net .

Full Poll Results Data (.pdf 278 kb)