To the Editor:

If nothing is certain but death and taxes, it’s no wonder the media is lapping up recent claims that 1,150 Americans will die every year if the Senate reduces alcohol taxes. The statistic is more hyperbole than certainty.

The uproar mirrors recent misinformation that one daily drink increases the risk of breast cancer by 5 percent. For the average 30-year-old woman, that amounts to a real risk increase of less than one-50th of 1 percent for breast cancer before age 40.

Real-world alcohol and tax trends reveal inflation has steadily reduced federal alcohol taxes since the 1950s to less than 10 cents per serving of beer or wine, and less than 20 cents per 80-proof shot of liquor. Yet despite access to comparatively cheaper drinks, death from alcohol-related causes remains relatively stable, increasing by 0.002 percent in the last three decades. The two aren’t correlated, let alone causative.

By definition, alcohol-related deaths involve excessive drinking and studies clearly indicate that addiction and substance abuse do not adhere to simple supply and demand.

Think critically about the claim: Even if the federal excise tax were completely eliminated, does anyone believe a 20 cent cheaper bar tab is the only safeguard from rampant loss of life? Resist the fearmongering and enjoy your slightly cheaper drink.

Dr. Joseph Perrone

Chief Science Officer

Center for Accountability in Science

(2) comments

Barry Clark

When reading the article, one should consider the author’s funding. The Center for Accountability in Science (CAS) is a project of the Center for Organizational Research and Education (CORE). CORE was set up by the corporate lobbyist and PR marketer Richard Berman. It shares the same address as Berman’s public affairs firm. CORE paid Berman’s firm more than $1.75 million for management, advertising, research and accounting fees in 2015. According to many sources, it is an astroturfing operating that lobbies for alcohol and other industries.

Barry Clark

The doctor seems to think that being concerned for her health beyond age 40 is unreasonable for a 30-year-old women. But there are other things to consider, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, alcoholism, and liver disease. And what about the plague of alcohol-fueled sexual assaults against women at colleges? Then there are those weird Mothers Against Drunk Driving who have a problem with drunk driving and underage drinking.

The doctor’s numbers are wrong. According to many sources, the federal excise taxes are 5¢/12 ounces of beer, 4¢/5 ounce glass of wine, and 13¢/1.5 ounce shot of 80 proof distilled spirits. If the doctor can be so off-base on this, one has to wonder about the rest of his analysis.

The doctor does not seem to understand heavy drinking and alcoholics. It is not simply a 20¢
difference for a single drink that defines the monetary aspect. An alcoholic can easily have hundreds of drinks/month. Alcohol taxes slightly impact light and moderate drinkers. They are well-focused on heavy drinkers.

Society pays a price for drinking. Just think how it “stimulates” the criminal justice system. And the alcohol treatment facilities. So how should it be payed for? Taxes on toothpaste and school supplies? Taxing booze amounts to “charge for harm.”

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