According to the CDC, alcohol use is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths per year, and German Lopez of Vox argues this is in part because the alcohol tax has not been raised since 1991, making it easier and cheaper for people to drink excessively.
One question with this is, well, does it work? Sure, you can increase the tax and make alcohol cost more. But does that actually get people to drink less? The research shows a higher alcohol tax not only gets people to drink less, but has a particular impact on excessive drinking and its negative outcomes.
As Republicans struggle to cut taxes without exploding the deficit, Lopez argues a modest increase in the alcohol tax would not only save lives, it would also provide a huge source of revenue.
In the 2016 report, the CBO looked at what would happen if the excise tax were raised to $16 per proof gallon for all alcoholic beverages, along with the elimination of tax credits for small producers and exemptions for personal use. It found that this would raise $70.4 billion over 10 years.
But many have pushed back against "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco because they disproportionately hurt the poor and some argue they are largely ineffective at reducing consumption. Christopher Snowdon argues in an Adam Smith Institute report that alcohol taxes are "highly regressive" and are indicative of "the government's mishandling of public finances."
Minimum alcohol pricing is also deeply regressive, only affecting the cheaper drinks consumed by the poor. Punishing poor people for enjoying a drink or a cigarette exacerbates poverty and treats the poor like children who need to be controlled by the state.
Snowdon believes that "sin taxes" are appealing because they are advertised as being concerned for public health, but the reality is very different.
Campaigners for sin taxes and minimum pricing often claim that “healthy citizens” are forced to bear the cost of other people’s lifestyles... [But] there is no relationship between alcohol prices and alcohol related harm, nor is there an association between cigarette prices and smoking rates. The only significant effects that sin taxes have are to make the poor poorer and black marketeers richer.