Could Increasing Taxes and Alcohol Prices Lower Drinking-Related Harm?

A recent study has found that alcohol not only seriously harms drinkers, but those around them too.
Fabienne Lang
Bottles of alcoholMichael Gaida /Pixabay

Secondhand drinking is as much an issue as secondhand smoking, as per a new research recently published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.


What is meant as secondhand drinking is people affected by the actions of those drinking alcoholic beverages. 

According to the research, up to 53 million Americans each year are affected in some manner due to secondhand drinking. That's one in five adults.

What is considered as secondhand harm from drinking?

What the researchers deem as "harm" is anything from threats or harassment, to violation of property, physical aggression, harm brought about due to driving and accidents, as well as financial and family related issues. The spectrum is broad. 

On top of this, different types of harm happen to different genders. 

The study discovered that women were more likely to report financial and family issues due to drunken family members, typically men. 

Men were more likely to experience issues such as vandalism, threats both physical and verbal as well as aggression, typically coming from non-family members. 

Age was also an important factor during the research, with younger people, under 25, experiencing issues from secondhand drinking. On top of this, those that drank, but not heavily, experienced bigger problems related to others' heavy drinking habits. 

Heavy drinking here is considered as five or more alcoholic beverages in one go for men, and four or more for women over the span of a month. 

How can this issue be resolved?

Certain people are of the belief that higher taxation on alcoholic drinks and their pricing should be implemented. 

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One such person is Timothy Naimi of the Boston Medical Center, who said: "The freedom to drink alcohol must be counter-balanced by the freedom from being afflicted by others' drinking in ways manifested by homicide, alcohol-related sexual assault, car crashes, domestic abuse, lost household wages, and child neglect."

Quite the list. 

Sven Andréasson, of the Karolinska Institutet of Stockholm, echoes Naimi's beliefs and believes there should be a minimum cost placed on alcohol. 

Andréasson said, "Recent research on the effects of minimum pricing is particularly relevant in this context, where studies in Canada find reductions in violence after the introduction of minimum pricing."

Lead researcher of the study, Madhabika B. Nayak of the Alcohol Research Group based in Oakland, California, couldn't agree more, "Control policies, such as alcohol pricing, taxation, reduced availability, and restricting advertising, may be the most effective ways to reduce not only alcohol consumption but also alcohol's harm to persons other than the drinker."

It seems like an obvious solution, but will the research be enough to carry these changes forward?


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