Debate: Should Massachusetts Raise Its Alcohol Taxes?


As a Massachusetts task force considers ways to modernize the state's alcohol laws, The Boston Globe has hosted an ongoing debate on whether the Bay State should raise its alcohol taxes. The debate has featured multiple different voices arguing "yes" or "no" to the tax raise. Here's a sample:


Kerrie D’Entremont, Executive director, Greater Lowell Health Alliance

Today, when someone says “substance abuse,” the first thing many people think of is opiates. But there is another form of substance misuse and abuse that we as health professionals have been fighting for well over 30 years: alcohol...

Excessive drinking has serious consequences. One in three car accidents in the United States involves drunk driving, and according to American Health Rankings, an average of 2.5 million years of potential life were lost annually due to excessive drinking from 2006-2010. Binge drinking also puts a strain the economy. In 2010 the median cost of excessive drinking was about $5.6 billion in Massachusetts. Whether an individual participates in excessive drinking or not, we all pay.

So how do we reduce the excessive drinking rate and the drain on our wallets? One of the strategies recommended by a federal task force in 2015 was to increase the tax on alcohol. The research suggests that there is an indirect link between the cost of alcohol and the number of deaths and injuries that are related to alcohol use. Simply put, “for every 10 percent increase in price, alcohol consumption is expected to decrease by more than 7 percent,” the task force said...



Joe Selby, Owner, Kappy’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Everett


Next time you’re in New Hampshire, take a spin through one of the state liquor store parking lots and pay special attention to the number of Massachusetts license plates you see. Every time a Massachusetts resident shops in our neighboring state, the Commonwealth loses money through lower business and payroll taxes paid by Massachusetts businesses, and lower alcohol excise taxes collected from the Commonwealth’s liquor, wine, and beer wholesalers.

Now, Beacon Hill is entertaining a proposal to shift more revenue to New Hampshire, by raising alcohol excise taxes here in Massachusetts. People heading over the border to shop is a longstanding problem for Massachusetts, but the state seems all too eager to not only exacerbate the problem but to do so on the backs of the Commonwealth’s lower-income residents, who tend to be the hardest hit by ultra-regressive taxes like excise taxes...

You can read the rest of these opinions here, and another point vs. counter-point on the tax here.