Easing regulations to raise money

Earlier today, I went through my "to read" folder and posted a bunch of drug and alcohol-related links in the blog entry below.  I was going to include one from the New York Times entitled "States Putting Hopes in ‘Bottoms Up’ to Help the Bottom Line" but I thought it deserved its own entry considering all of our local/state initiatives that would ease regulations on alcohol.

Here's an excerpt:

With cities across the country facing their fifth straight year of declining revenues and states cutting services and laying off workers, raising money from people who enjoy a cocktail is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Since the recession started in earnest in 2008, dozens of states and cities have tinkered with laws that regulate alcohol sales as a way to build up their budgets.

Although some drinkers and government budget writers might like the changes, not everyone is happy.

“Lawmakers are taking a very short-sided view,” said David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “What they gain in short-term tax revenue they are losing in long-term police costs, emergency room costs and work-force readiness costs in terms of the Monday morning effect.”

Like many public health officials, Mr. Jernigan does not support government efforts that increase the availability of alcohol, but he does support raising sales tax as a way to make people drink less.

As I have noted in previous blog entries, stringent alcohol regulations are one tool communities rely upon to prevent underage drinking.  So, as our local and state governments propose increasing access to alcohol as a way to raise tax revenue, communities should consider the costs associated with increased access .  At the same time, communities may want to consider advocating for an increase in taxes on alcohol -- a policy that has proven to prevent underage drinking.