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Alcohol Taxes Up, Binge Drinking Down?

Study finds lower rates in states with higher tariffs

THURSDAY, Jan. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Higher alcohol taxes may help reduce binge drinking, a new study suggests.

Binge drinking in men is defined as having five or more drinks on a given occasion; in women it's four or more drinks. Binge drinking causes more than half of the nearly 90,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States each year, according to background information in the study.

Researchers found that a 1 percent increase in alcohol price due to taxes was associated with a 1.4 percent decrease in binge drinking among adults. The more alcohol taxes rise, the more binge drinking rates fall, the study concluded.

Alcohol taxes accounted for about 20 percent of the differences in states' binge drinking rates, the study authors said. For example, the state with the highest taxes on beer (Tennessee) had the lowest binge drinking rate (6.6 percent) in 2010, while states with low alcohol taxes (Delaware, Montana, Wisconsin) had high binge drinking rates, the study found.

The findings are "really significant for public health," study lead author Ziming Xuan, assistant professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, said in a university news release.

The researchers used 2000-2010 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys to determine binge drinking rates.

While the study found an association between alcohol taxes and binge drinking rates, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The study was released online Dec. 28 in advance of print publication in the journal Addiction.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about binge drinking.

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Jan. 5, 2015
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