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Excise tax on beer shouldn't be increased

Sept. 25, 2003

Staff editorial

Some college students' wallets might just get a little slimmer, if a proposal by the National Academy of Sciences holds any weight. Its report released two weeks ago suggests increasing the federal excise tax on alcohol, specifically beer, to help curb underage drinking.

The report notes that underage drinking costs taxpayers about $53 billion each year, and alcohol-related traffic accidents for minors nationwide cost $19 billion.

The NAS figures that increasing the cost of beer through additional taxes, which currently stand at 33 cents per six-pack, will prevent minors from purchasing alcohol, leading to less consumption of beer and fewer accidents. If the government follows the example set the last time the excise tax was raised in 1991, the tax will double, taxing consumers 66 cents per six-pack.

In 1991, beer sales dropped by 9 percent in Virginia as a result of the raised taxes, according to a Cavalier Daily article at the University of Virginia.

The chairman of the Virginia chapter of MADD told the Cavalier Daily he thinks college students also will cut back on beer consumption if the taxes are raised. 'When you're a college student you don't have much money,' Carter Hill, the MADD chairman, said. 'If beer costs more, [college students] might not be able to buy as much.'

The Lariat disagrees with Hill and the NAS. Adolescents and young college students who want to drink beer will do so, no matter the cost.

Teenagers often are given more money and more freedom than ever before, and many don't hesitate to pay for large quantities of beer. An extra 33 cents is going to be nothing to such teenagers, and many college students will more than likely find a way to come up with the extra money as well.

We believe society has placed many pressures on teenagers to fit in and belong to certain crowds. Unfortunately, being 'popular' among teens today often includes attending parties and drinking alcohol. Teenagers who conform to such pressures are going to continue drinking and continue paying for beer.

The tax also is unfair to adults who enjoy drinking beer responsibly. Many states and cities already impose extra taxes on alcohol to gain revenue for development projects. Why should adults who want to enjoy the cheaper alternative of drinking beer at home rather than at a restaurant pay extra to hypothetically prevent a few youths from drinking?