Alcohol Tax Rates Are Low . . . and They Should Stay That Way
I think we can all agree that drinking in excess is not good for you. Not only is it bad for your health, but if you’re not smart, such a habit could end up destroying the lives of others as well. That’s why I applaud the intentions behind Christopher Ingraham’s recent op-ed, if not his prescription.
In his article, Ingraham calls for raising alcohol taxes, stating: “Higher taxes make alcohol more expensive. More expensive alcohol makes people drink less of it. And when people are drinking less, they’re less likely to suffer costly health problems or do stupid things like drive drunk.”
If Ingraham’s ultimate objective is to make people drink less alcohol, why not just ban it? Wouldn’t prohibition really reduce the health problems associated with alcohol consumption? However, we’ve already tried Prohibition, and it didn’t work out too well. So Ingraham’s alternative is to raise taxes to cut down on consumption. Except, there are problems with that approach as well. Increase taxes too much and people will resort to smuggling. It’s happening in New York with cigarettes. What’s to say it wouldn’t happen with alcohol?
Both Ingraham and I want to cut down on drunk driving. Thankfully, drunk driving is already on the decline. Since 1986, alcohol-related fatalities have seen a 54 percent decline! Why solve a problem that is already fixing itself?
There are negative side effects to raising alcohol taxes as well. Because of our low taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, and gasoline, commuters from out of state make it a point to purchase these products in Missouri. If we raise taxes on alcohol we are removing an incentive for people to shop in Missouri. If less people shop here, Missouri businesses will suffer and the state will see less tax revenue. How will that help anybody?
I can sympathize with Ingraham’s efforts to curb the more negative effects of heavy alcohol consumption, but the biggest problem, drunk driving, is becoming less of one over time. Coupled with the fact that increased alcohol taxes can hurt Missouri businesses, we should leave tax rates alone and focus on other ways to improve public health and safety.