State Alcohol Taxes and Health:
A Citizen's Action Guide


Since 1983, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and dozens of health-conscious organizations have campaigned to raise alcohol excise taxes at the national level. Our efforts paid off in increases in liquor taxes in 1986 and 1991 and hikes in beer and wine taxes, for the first time in 40 years, in 1991.

Not surprisingly, the tax rates are still far too low. They fail adequately to discourage consumption by young people, to reduce excessive drinking, or to provide sufficient revenues to compensate societal damage that results from alcohol use or to finance educational campaigns. Obviously, we have not yet met our goals, and our national advocacy will continue.

States also feel the burden of alcohol-related costs, and the prospects for increases in state alcohol excise taxes have recently improved. As they take on new responsibilities for social service and health programs under block grants and federal transfers, states face growing budgetary pressures. Alcohol tax increases may help save vital safety-net programs.

Whether your organization works to protect state programs that serve the poor or focuses on reducing underage drinking and drunk-driving casualties, we encourage you to ignite state-wide public discussion about the relationship of alcohol tax rates and health. Educational campaigns about smoking have stimulated numerous increases in state "health" taxes on tobacco products; alcohol products, in most states, have been overlooked. Ignoring low alcohol tax rates serves only to perpetuate high levels of alcohol-related problems and deny state governments a valuable source of additional revenue.

This booklet offers basic tools to help you begin addressing alcohol excise tax issues in your state. We look forward to learning of your efforts and to working with you in the futures.

CSPI 1996

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