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Booze Taxes Lower Alcohol-Linked Deaths
Date:11/13/2008

Alaska's alcohol tax increases tied to a drop in cirrhosis, cancer, study found

THURSDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Raising state taxes on alcohol may trigger an immediate drop in the number of people who die from alcohol-related disease, new research reveals.

The finding is based on the particular experience of Alaska, following that state's two legislative moves to raise taxes on beer, wine and liquor in 1983 and 2002. In the first instance, the research team observed a 29 percent decline in deaths from alcohol-related disease; in the second, the apparent drop was 11 percent.

"The real bottom line is that the increase in the alcohol tax saved lives," said study lead author Alexander C. Wagenaar, a professor of epidemiology with the College of Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Wagenaar and his team will publish their conclusions in the online January edition of the American Journal of Public Health. The study was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To gauge the impact of alcohol taxes on alcohol-related disease fatalities, the authors analyzed U.S. National Center for Health Statistics data from 1976 through 2004. They tallied the number of men and women who died from a range of alcohol-related conditions, both in Alaska and across the United States, before and after Alaska's two tax bumps.

Such diseases include cirrhosis, cancer of the mouth, cancers of the esophagus, breast cancer, and a number of other pancreatic and cardiac illnesses. Alongside alcohol-related injuries and accidents, such illnesses make up the estimated 85,000 alcohol-fueled deaths occurring in the United States annually.

The researchers note that Alaska is one of the first states to impose a serious increase in alcohol tax, raising its tax on beer, for example, from 46 cents to 63 cents per gallon in 1983, and then again to $1
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