Alcohol abuse is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and it contributes to countless diseases, car crashes, injuries, and crimes.
How can we solve these thorny problems? Making booze more expensive might be a good start, a new study suggests, according to Health.com.
Doubling the current state taxes on alcohol — which would tack on as much as 50 cents to the price of the average six-pack or bottle of wine — could be expected to reduce alcohol-related deaths by 35 percent, fatal car crashes by 11 percent, and the rates of sexually transmitted disease by 6 percent, according to the study.
Higher taxes on booze would also lead to 2 percent less violence and 1.4 percent less crime, the researchers estimate.
Even a slight decrease in drinking could have a large impact on public health. If millions of people living in an area consumed half a drink less per week, on average, the small differences in alcohol intake — and intoxication — could lead to big drops in overall injury and death rates.
There is some evidence that raising taxes can reduce unhealthy behaviors, even for people who are addicts. Increased taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products have been shown to reduce smoking rates and influence heavy smokers to cut back or quit.
Alcohol abuse has been linked to an increased risk of liver disease, heart disease, stroke, depression, and some cancers, in addition to causing the impaired judgment that leads to risky sexual behavior and drunk driving.
Sara Markowitz, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Emory University, says that even small increases in the price of alcohol are likely to result in measurable gains in public health and safety.