Alcohol Prices and Harm from Alcohol Abuse

Are alcohol prices and harm from misuse of alcohol related? It’s often suggested that we should increase taxes on alcohol to reduce harms. Some people suggest requiring minimum prices for alcohol. Would raising the price of alcohol be an effective deterrent to DWI and other problems?

To answer this, researchers made a comprehensive review of natural experiments in nine countries. They examined public policy changes that affected alcohol taxes and prices. The researchers studied 69 alcohol-related harms reported in studies published during 2003 to 2015.

A total of 45 studies from nine countries were analyzed. The countries were Australia, China (Hong Kong), Denmark, Finland,, Iceland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.

alcohol prices and harmThe results showed inconsistent patterns of outcomes resulting from increasing alcoholic beverage prices. This was true both within countries and across countries.

This lack of a relationship shouldn’t be surprising. Many factors influence alcohol consumption. They also affect alcohol abuse. These factors include age, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, educational background, occupation, and many more.

These findings have important publiv policy implications.

Source: Nelson, J., and McNall A. Alcohol prices, taxes, and alcohol-related harms: a critical review of natural experiments in alcohol policy for nine countries. Health Policy, 2016; ePub DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2016.01.018 PMID: 26861971


Readings on Alcohol Prices and Harm

Byrnes, J., et al. (2013). Can Harms Associated with High-Intensity Drinking be Reduced by Increasing the Price of Alcohol? Drug Alco Rev. 32: 27-30.

Cook, P.J. and G. Tauchen (1982). The Effect of Liquor Taxes on Heavy Drinking, Bell J Econ. 13: 379-89.

Farrell, S., et al. (2003). Alcohol Dependence and the Price of Alcoholic  Beverages, J Health Econ. 22: 117-47.

Gius, M. (2002). The Effect of Taxes on Alcohol Consumption.  Penn Econ Rev. 11: 76-93.

Kuo, K., et al. (2003). Does Price Matter? The Effect of Decreased Price on Spirits Consumption in Switzerland, Alco Clin Exper Res.  27:720-25.

Walker, T. (2009). Why We Should Not Set a Minimum Price per unit of Alcohol, Pub Health Ethics. 3: 107-14.