Report: Alcohol Tax Cuts May Lead To More Drunk Driving, Abuse Among Teens

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Nick Givas Media And Politics Reporter

Health officials are expressing concern over alcohol tax cuts, and said the GOP’s “dire” tax plan could lead to more drunk driving and underage drinking, Politico reported Sunday.

Congress cut alcohol taxes by 16 percent as part of comprehensive tax reform, and Politico noted health advocates think Congress is being hypocritical for slamming cigarettes, but cutting the booze industry a break.

“Congress’s decision to cut alcohol taxes by 16 percent also contrasts with lawmakers’ treatment of cigarettes, a health threat they consider on par with alcohol, which has seen its levies climb nearly 1,500 percent since 1970,” the article reads.

The cuts will generate $1.6 billion in savings for MillerCoors and Diageo. Makers of Captain Morgan and Ketel One Vodka; as well as smaller alcohol companies who supported the move, according to Politico.

David Jernigan, head of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins University told Politico the cheaper alcohol is, the more likely people are to binge drink and develop lasting addictions.

“The cheaper alcohol is, the more people drink and the more they have alcohol problems, and there is a huge international literature that has shown that over and over and over,” he said. “The public health ramifications of this continue to be invisible to policymakers.”

Congressional leaders from both sides weighed in and disagreed with Jernigan, telling Politico the bill will not have a damaging effect on the public.

“I don’t think it will have that effect. All it does is help small craft breweries and small distillers,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio who sponsored the provision said.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon voted against the GOP tax measure, but said it was impossible for Congress to try to legislate the public’s drinking habits. “Moderation is the key, and you can’t legislate moderation,” he said.

This is the first time since 1991 Congress has adjusted the alcohol tax and the current rates are set to expire in 2019.


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