In a piquant paean to higher taxes {"Taxes Go Up," editorial, Dec. 31}, The Post dismisses the impending effects of America's latest excise tax on alcohol. In the words of The Post, the new tax is "the right way to begin a new year," because (1) it exacts only "a tiny cost," and (2) should alcohol consumption decline, society will not be worse off as a result.

So who will pay this "tiny cost"? First, the nearly 4 million Americans whose livelihoods depend upon the health and solvency of the U.S. alcohol beverage industry; second, the residents of the District of Columbia and America's 50 states, for it is the state and local governments that, as a result of lost sales, will lose as much as $200 million a year in tax revenues. Keep in mind that these funds pay for everything from child care to local policing and that, in short, every American will pay.

And will society be better or worse off? Certainly not better. The Post is correct to assume that the new tax will slash alcohol consumption. But it will not affect alcohol abuse. Higher taxes (and thus, higher prices) will discourage drinking by responsible, moderate consumers, not by alcohol abusers, for whom cost is of little concern. Taxes and higher prices are not the way to combat alcohol abuse -- education and treatment are a much more rational approach.

F. A. MEISTER President and Chief Executive Officer Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Inc. Washington