06 November 2010

Alcohol tax increases coming?

So suggests this article in today's Baltimore Sun:

The "dime-a-drink" campaign, which reflects about how much more each beverage would cost, is a sophisticated staple in Annapolis. Advocates have armed themselves with opinion polls showing broad support for the idea and studies that indicate a higher tax would save lives and reduce underage drinking.
During the election season, more than 140 candidates for office pledged to support an alcohol tax increase tied to health care and community outreach on drinking. Sixty-five of them won and will take their seats in January in the General Assembly.
"We're poised," said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. DeMarco lobbied successfully for a tobacco tax increase, which he frequently cites as a comparison.
Raising the tax by 10 cents per drink would generate $214 million in new annual revenue, the coalition says, and cut health care costs by $250 million by reducing drinking.
Maryland has some of the lowest alcohol taxes in the country. The levy on liquor hasn't gone up since 1955, and on wine and beer since 1972.
While freely acknowledging that Maryland's low alcohol tax rates are an anomaly in a state and legislature that seems to have never met a tax it didn't like or couldn't impose, I really want to see the data that this so-called "coalition" has on how it would reduce health costs.  Is this brought to you by the same folks that brought you the "study" in The Lancet the other day?

On the other hands, proposals for these tax increases have been floating about for a couple years, and have yet to reach fruition, thanks to intense campaign contributions "lobbying" by the alcohol industry.  Stay tuned.

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