An increase in taxes on alcohol and tobacco by the Maryland government resulted in reduced use of both the substances among the people, found a recent study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins University. Basis the findings, the researchers are now urging lawmakers to consider a nationwide increase in taxes on cigarettes and alcohol for better public health outcomes.
The research, aimed at improving the quality of lives of those underserved, was commissioned by a Baltimore organization. Titled, “Public Health Policy in Maryland: Lessons from Recent Alcohol and Cigarette Tax Policies,” the report revealed that there was significant improvement in public health when Maryland increased the taxes on a pack of cigarette from $1.00 to $2.00 in 2008 and on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent in 2011.
According to Terry Staudenmaier, senior program officer for health and human services at the Abell Foundation, the report helped the researchers assess the effects of increased tax legislation on cigarettes and alcohol on public health.
Reduction in binge drinking
According to Staudenmaier, the findings proved that such laws could be an effective tool to rein in people’s drinking habit. When Maryland increased the taxes on alcohol and alcoholic beverages in 2011, it had an impact on the drinking habits of people. The report found that between 2011 and 2015, there was a 26 percent reduction in drinking among Maryland high school students. The students consumed alcohol only at least once in the preceding 30-day period. On the other hand, there was a 17 percent reduction in alcohol consumption nationwide.
The researchers also found that binge drinking among the youth reduced by 28 percent during the same period. Students’ travelling rate in vehicles driven by people who were high also dropped by 31 percent. Binge drinking is when someone consumes five or more successive drinks. While a 6 percent reduction in binge drinking was recorded among adults nationwide, Maryland logged a 17 percent drop from 2011 to 2016.
Decline in smoking among youth
The rise in taxes on cigarettes also resulted in reduced smoking among the youth in Maryland, found the report. Sales of cigarettes dropped from 269 million retail packs in 2007 to 182 million retail packs in 2015. The number of smokers declined every year after the introduction of a raised tax structure on cigarettes. Young smokers who reported smoking at least once in the previous 30-day period reduced from 17 percent in 2007 to 9 percent in 2015.
Experts felt that though the research was aimed at finding new approaches for better public health outcomes, it was not free from drawbacks. They claimed that the data was cherry-picked and that the findings could be just a generalization. Further detailed and complex analysis of the data is required to support the conclusions.
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