The case against raising alcohol taxes in Maryland

Friday, July 30, 2010

Regarding " 'The Cheap Drunk State' " [editorial, July 26] on Maryland alcohol taxes:

There is an issue of fairness that should be considered: Should consumers of alcoholic beverages be taxed at a higher rate than consumers of other goods and services? The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative wants higher alcohol taxes to fund mental health services, services for people with developmental disabilities, and health care for indigent and childless adults. But these services benefit all Marylanders.

The appeal of "sin taxes" is that they collect revenue from segments of consumers rather than all taxpayers, thus reducing the overall grumbling and discontent of the electorate. Tax fairness requires programs with broad constituencies to be funded by revenue drawn from a broad base.

Mark Gibson, Fairfax

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The editorial advocating higher Maryland alcohol taxes said that "the state taxes booze so lightly that it's a wonder it hasn't become known as a mecca for drunkards."

High taxes have never effectively minimized the potential dangers associated with abusive or illegal drinking. In fact, while neighboring Virginia has some of the highest alcohol taxes in the country, it fares no better in fighting underage drinking, binge drinking or alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

The theory behind alcohol taxes is that they are supposed to mitigate alcohol-related harms. In the real world, high alcohol taxes are simply ineffective. David Ozgo, Washington

The writer is chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.


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