Study: Cheap alcohol leads to deadly behavior

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Monday, April 6, 2015
Shelves are filled with bottles of liquor at a 21st Amendment liquor store in Carmel, Ind., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015.

Researchers say the affordability of alcoholic drinks is contributing to heavy drinking.

An analysis by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found "alcoholic beverages sold for off-premises consumption are more affordable today than at any time in the past 60 years."

The study compares today's prices for alcohol to prices in the 1950's when drinking ten or more drinks a day would have cost someone almost half of their disposable income. Consuming the same amount of alcohol in 2011 would have cost the average person only 3 percent of their disposable income.

The study claims this plummeting trend is related to rising incomes and falling prices.

Researchers say the reduced federal and state tax rates on alcohol is why the price of booze is so low, and they believe the affordability has contributed to Americans widespread drinking and driving. The conclusion from the study is higher taxes make alcohol more expensive, which would make people drink less and less likely to suffer health problems or do things while intoxicated like driving and drinking.

"Higher prices are conducive to lower rates of underage drinking, traffic fatalities, and sexually transmitted disease," said one researcher cited in the Washington Post.

Other researchers from the University of Florida point to an increase in the Illinois alcohol tax in 2009. After the tax hike, the state saw a 26 percent decline in alcohol related crashes and a 37 percent decrease for young people. Unemployment at the time and lower incomes may have played a role as well.

"If policymakers are looking to address dangerous drivers on our roads and reduce the number of fatalities, they should reverse the trend of allowing inflation to erode alcohol taxes," said Alexander C. Wagenaar of the UF College of Medicine.