Background: Over a hundred studies have established the effects of beverage alcohol taxes and prices on sales and drinking behaviors. Yet, relatively few studies have examined effects of alcohol taxes on alcohol-related mortality. We evaluated effects of multiple changes in alcohol tax rates in the state of Florida from 1969 to 2004 on disease (not injury) mortality.
Methods: A time-series quasi-experimental research design was used, including nonalcohol deaths within Florida and other states’ rates of alcohol-related mortality for comparison. A total of 432 monthly observations of mortality in Florida were examined over the 36-year period. Analyses included ARIMA, fixed-effects, and random-effects models, including a noise model, tax independent variables, and structural covariates.
Results: We found significant reductions in mortality related to chronic heavy alcohol consumption following legislatively induced increases in alcohol taxes in Florida. The frequency of deaths (t = −2.73, p = 0.007) and the rate per population (t = −2.06, p = 0.04) declined significantly. The elasticity effect estimate is −0.22 (t = −1.88, p = 0.06), indicating a 10% increase in tax is associated with a 2.2% decline in deaths.
Conclusions: Increased alcohol taxes are associated with significant and sizable reductions in alcohol-attributable mortality in Florida. Results indicate that 600 to 800 lives per year could be saved if real tax rates were returned to 1983 levels (when the last tax increase occurred). Findings highlight the role of tax policy as an effective means for reducing deaths associated with chronic heavy alcohol use.