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Use & Abuse
A Sobering Comment from Trevor Butterworth
Friday, 16th April, 2010  - David Farmer
Forbes Magazine

Anti-drinking advocates are alive and well and are pushing harder and harder for increases in taxes on alcohol, particularly a volumetric tax; tighter opening hours for pubs; perhaps even raising the drinking age. Unruly behaviour late at night does seem to be growing in city centres and indeed something may have to be done. Then again I'm tucked into bed pretty early most nights so my enjoyment of living will not be affected if bars are forced to close earlier.

Use and abuse is a topic that Glug takes a lot of interest in and you might care to read the comments by Trevor Butterworth, Forbes, October, 2009; "A Beer Tax Won't Reduce The Clap- Booze, STDs and the irrational exuberance of public health experts".

In this long article Butterworth exposes the poor statistics behind those claiming taxes on alcohol will solve all sorts of problems. In this case that STD would decline if beer was taxed at a higher rate. "Recently, taxes on sugary sodas have been hailed as a painless way to tackle obesity, despite the absence of proof that the taxes would actually achieve this goal. Now the latest advice for "leeching" America comes from Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, medical director for the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Dr. Eric Goplerud, director of the Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy at George Washington University. Writing in the Washington Post, they argue that imposing heavy taxes on alcohol would both reduce the harmful effects of heavy drinking and help pay for health reform. The logic is that if teens drink less, they'll have less unprotected sex, reducing their exposure to sexually transmitted diseases"

"This particular claim comes from a nine-year-old study from the Centers for Disease Control that generated massive media coverage, not all of it favourable--the Washington Post at the time called it "a loony assertion"--and, interestingly, a crucial bit of backtracking by the CDC: "We said higher taxes could reduce the rate. We didn't say they would," protested Harrell Chesson, the study's lead author."

The final conclusion reads: "All of which brings us to the irrational exuberance that taxes seem to inspire in public health experts. What is the incentive behind advocating tax increases on the basis of such dismal data? Is it really a baleful admission of defeat--that all the health education in the world won't engineer a change in American behaviour? Is it a punitive rebuke to Americans for squandering their money on making themselves fat, drunk and diseased--and a message that they need to be financially leeched to rebalance their humours? Or is it a way of talking about the truly unpalatable: raising money, directly and unambiguously, from the public to finance health care? Whatever the motivation, sound public policy requires health experts to practice what they preach, and that means sobering up in regard to the miraculously curative possibilities offered by taxes; in this case, they are not going to do the job of a condom."

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