Tax hopes to limit underage drinking
Many students may soon notice that as their beer bellies grow bigger, their wallets grow smaller.
‘Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility,’ a National Academies Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report issued this year, recommended that the excise tax on alcohol be raised to significantly curb underage drinking.
While legal adults would be affected by the tax increase as well, those under the age of 21 would be more likely to change their behavior as the costs go up, according to the report.
‘Price has been documented to have a differential affect on youth alcohol consumption patterns,’ the report added.
The Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking created the report after it researched federal, state and non-governmental programs to develop a strategy to control the problem of underage alcohol consumption.
Some people believe that an increase in the cost of alcohol will do little to deter underage drinking.
‘Alcohol abuse is definitely a problem for underage drinkers, but making it more expensive for everybody won’t solve anything,’ said Gerrit Cain, a senior environmental forest and biology major and president of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.
The solution to eliminating underage drinking does not lie within rules and regulations and cannot simply be boiled down to a matter of money, said Dessa Bergen-Cico, associate dean of students.
‘The real question is, what’s the motivation for people to want to drink?’ Bergen-Cico said. ‘I’m not opposed to it, but it’s kind of like they’re checking off the box on their to-do list. There are much more complex and underlying themes here.’
The excise tax, which is added to the sales tax, is applied to all liquor before it reaches stores, said Mark Stesanski, owner of Brighton Discount Liquors in Syracuse.
‘It’s different in every state, but any increase, I don’t think, would make a difference in underage drinking,’ Stesanski said.
The tax is currently is 12.5 cents per gallon for beer, 19 cents per gallon for wine and $6.44 per gallon for hard liquor, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators and the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.
The revenue from the increase could become a source to fund programs aimed at reducing underage drinking and its repercussions, the report said.
The report recommends many other actions, including a federally funded media effort, such as a ban on alcohol promotion to minors, to limit marketing practices relating to alcohol that has underage appeal.
‘Youth drink within the context of society in which alcohol use is normative behavior and images about alcohol are pervasive,’ the report stated. ‘They usually obtain alcohol – either directly or indirectly — from adults. Efforts to reduce underage drinking, therefore, need to focus on adults and must engage the society at large.’
It is too late to change the culture of American society where people perceive alcohol as the forbidden fruit, Cain said.
‘Here, drinking is this big scandalous thing,’ Cain said. ‘Go to Europe, they don’t drink like we do. That stems from growing up and the alcohol is just there, not a big deal to drink it.’
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