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Lori Levy
Beer Institute

Proposed Legislation in Massachusetts Unfairly Burden Consumers and Businesses

Boston, MA, May 22, 2001 - Increasing beer taxes to fund alcohol and drug treatment programs unfairly burdens the vast majority of American beer drinkers who consume beer responsibly, as well as the many small and large businesses that produce, distribute and sell beer, according to Jeff Becker, president, Beer Institute. Becker is testifying today before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Taxation on proposed legislation that would increase the cost of a beer by 5 % to fund alcohol and drug treatment programs. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Marian Walsh.

"Even if you tax alcohol at outrageous rates, you won't get the people who drink abusively to cut back. But what you will do is unfairly punish everyone else - the millions who drink responsibly and in moderation. And for true alcoholics, extremely high taxes will likely just punish their families who will forego other necessities so the alcoholic can keep drinking. Taxes just aren't the answer," Becker explained.

A recent study estimates that the Commonwealth spent $210 million in 2000 on activities such as treatment, research and prevention programs. And according to government data for Massachusetts and other states in the country, people are drinking more responsibly, causing drunk driving, underage drinking and teenage drunk driving to decrease significantly.

The production, distribution and sale of beer in Massachusetts directly employs more than 12,000 people and results in more than $650 million in economic activity. Expected losses in sales due to higher taxes will shift sales and jobs to neighboring states. Further, to the extent that sales actually drop, that is, people drink less as a result, research has shown that such shifts do not come from heavy drinkers, but come almost entirely from people who already drink moderately.

In today's testimony, Becker said that it is questionable enough to tax all drinkers to pay for those who drink abusively, and even more non-productive when it is suggested that the same responsible drinkers should also pay for substance abuse. "Peer-reviewed research has shown that the gateway notion that this idea rests upon is just too simplistic. In fact, alcohol abuse and substance abuse are often intertwined with other emotional problems, such as depression and delinquency, and whether people receive treatment shouldn't hinge on the level of taxes imposed on people when they buy a beer."

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Beer Institute, established in 1986, is the national trade association for the brewing industry, representing both large and small brewers, as well as importers and industry suppliers. The Institute is committed to development of sound public policy and to the values of civic duty and personal responsibility.


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