Making the Case for Higher Excise Taxes on Alcohol

January 1, 2018 GMT

The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists consumption of alcoholic beverages as a known human carcinogen. The research evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks -- particularly the more alcohol a person drinks regularly over time -- the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. These include head and neck cancers (mouth, throat and voice box) and cancers of the esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.

As with cigarettes and other tobacco products, these proven risks should be listed on all alcohol beverage labels.

When people understand that alcoholic beverages are have potential toxicity perhaps they will understand the need for higher excise taxes. The voters unwisely rejected alcohol sales taxes in 2010. Massachusetts has one of the lowest excise taxes nationally on beer -- 41st highest of all states and the District of Columbia. We are 28th highest on wine; 14th highest on liquor. Not exactly “Taxachusetts!”

Higher costs reduce sales which will not please the industry but will help the public health and provide the Commonwealth with much needed revenues for social problems and infrastructure. I would like to see higher tax revenues applied to ending homelessness here.

According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were 17,565 people in Massachusetts counted as experiencing homelessness during the January 2017 point-in-time count.

Although most do not live on the streets, shelters and transitional housing are not the answer. We need to invest in new affordable and subsidized housing. Alcohol sales are an excellent ongoing source of that revenue.


Salem, MA