A Tool to Prevent Cancer: Taxes
Alcohol is well-established as a contributor to elevated cancer risk. Alcohol use is a complex social issue with plenty of talking points, but there may be a way to reduce its impact: taxes.
At least, that’s the thinking from a number of scientists in Dresden. After compiling cancer data and evaluated alcohol consumption, they’ve established that the European Union could reduce the cancer rate by increasing duties on drinks.
Europe is certainly the place to start. The region has the highest per-capita consumption of alcohol in the world. Taxes on alcohol in Europe tend to be quite low, though they do vary by country.
Researchers worked with the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health to gather and analyze data and evaluate how different tax rates would impact alcohol use.
Raising Excise Taxes on Alcohol
The team generated results based on three different scenarios. To find the ideal impact on cancer rates, researchers looked at duty increases of 20%, 50%, and 100% across all current EU countries. The real challenge for the team was building in the 10-year lag in making tax changes and when the impact of alcohol use would most likely result in a cancer diagnosis.
Researchers concluded that doubling the tax on alcoholic beverages, the highest of the scenarios, could have prevented more than 10,700 new cancer diagnoses and 4,850 deaths in 2019. These would likely affect the rates of lip and oral cancers, colorectal cancer, laryngeal cancer, and female breast cancer, among others.
Alcohol’s Societal Expense
The health element of alcohol use is just one of many externalities that are not adequately built into the retail price or tax rate. In the EU, state-sponsored healthcare pays the bill, but not the strain production puts on water resources, transportation, or how it contributes to domestic abuse or police intervention.
In the US, drunk driving is a serious issue across the country. Here, the health impacts are even more challenging on lower-income households who are underemployed or underinsured.
More research is needed to establish a more reliable, accurate tax rate to impact cancer rates and provide plenty of other benefits as well.