Effects of alcohol taxes on alcohol-related disease mortality in New York State from 1969 to 2006

Chris Delcher, Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina, Alexander C. Wagenaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: The relationship of increased alcohol taxes to reductions in alcohol-related harm is well established. Few studies, however, have examined the effects of sudden decreases in alcohol tax rates or effects of narrow tax changes limited to specific beverage types. In the current study, we: (1) examine whether tax increases on spirits have similar effects in reducing alcohol-related disease mortality as increasing taxes on all types of alcoholic beverages simultaneously, and (2) evaluate effects of beer-specific tax decreases in New York State on mortality. Method: We used a time-series, quasi-experimental research design, including non-alcohol deaths within New York State and other states' rates of alcohol-related disease mortality for comparison. The dataset included 456 monthly observations of mortality in New York State over a 38-year period (1969-2006). We used a random-effects approach and included several other important covariates. Results: Alcohol-related disease mortality declined by 7.0% after a 1990 tax increase for spirits and beer. A spirits-only tax increase (in 1972) was not significantly associated with mortality but a data anomaly increased error in this effect estimate. Small tax decreases on beer between 1996 and 2006 had no measurable effect on mortality. Doubling the beer tax from $0.11 to $0.22 per gallon, a return to New York State's 1990 levels, would decrease deaths by an estimated 250 deaths per year. Conclusions: Excise tax increases on beer and spirits were associated with reductions in alcohol-related disease mortality. Modifying tax rates on a single beverage type does not appear to be as effective as doing so on multiple alcoholic beverages simultaneously. In New York, small decreases in beer taxes were not significantly associated with alcohol-related disease mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-789
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Rachel Johnson for assistance with manuscript preparation, Emilia Sykes and Bradley H. Wagenaar for assistance with data collection, and Dandan Xu for database management. This study was supported in part by the University of Florida Institute for Child Health Policy , the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation , and the U.S. National Institutes of Health . Findings and conclusions are solely the authors’ and do not necessarily represent the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or the University of Florida.

Funding Information:
This study was supported, in part, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation under grant 058005 to Alexander C. Wagenaar (Principal Investigator) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA017480) to Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina (Principal Investigator). Supporting organizations had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Alcohol
  • Mortality
  • New York
  • Policy
  • Tax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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