A dime a drink tax increase in the state of Maryland


It’s rare for government to take two unrelated problems and come up with an answer that addresses both, but the State of Maryland has that opportunity right now.

First problem: alcohol use annually causes more than 1,200 deaths in Maryland  and costs the state more than $3.5 billion. Second problem: more than a million Marylanders are without health insurance at some point every year (1.4 million were in 2007-2008).

Where’s the opportunity? A modest increase in alcohol taxes—a dime a drink—can address both problems. For too long, Maryland has missed out on the dual opportunities of reducing the negative effects of alcohol use and helping people without health insurance or other support. In fact, current alcohol taxes in Maryland remain among the lowest in the nation; the tax on spirits hasn’t increased since 1955, and the wine and beer tax hasn’t been raised since 1972.

The Dime a Drink proposal from the Maryland Health Care for All Coalition could generate $214 million that could be used to expand health care coverage for the poor, help people with developmental disabilities, and support alcohol and drug prevention and treatment. At the same time, Dime a Drink will save the state $249 million annually in alcohol-related health care costs and prevent 15,000 cases of alcohol abuse.

Please contact your Maryland delegate and senator today and urge them to support the Dime a Drink proposal. Opportunities are knocking, and it’s time for Maryland to answer.

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4 Responses to “A dime a drink tax increase in the state of Maryland”

  1. Rishav Says:

    While the dime-a-drink campaign might be a bit far-fetched in terms of revenue generation for the state of Maryland ($200 million revenue vs $2 billion budget deficit), I support the dime-a-drink campaign because of the positive impacts it will have on the youth.

    According to Jernigan and Waters, 313000 Marylanders are addicted to alcohol, and 1 in 6 in the age group 12-20 and 1 in 4 in young people in grades 9-12 abuse alcohol. Likewise, 1/3rd of deaths among 15 to 20 year-olds is due to alcohol.

    By raising 10 cents as tax, the youth might be dissuaded to drink alcohol. Think of all the problems currently present in the 15-20 year-olds that will be dealt with. And maybe by dissuading youth from alcohol we might be showing them better alternatives or better life skills.

    Moreover, alcohol groups are more concerned with their profits than having a moral authority. That is why they are messing around with the public’s health.

    This policy should be definitely be passed.

  2. Barraw Makia Says:

    This is clearly a brilliant idea! Seeing that alcohol taxes are not even on par with the national average makes it all the more pragmatic.

    Alcohol abuse is a very important public health issue and any effective disincentive to alcohol use is of utmost importance to any community. This idea not only proposes an economical disincentive to alcohol use but simultaneously packs a health insurance component making it a no-brainer.

    Steven Landsburg famously said, “people respond to incentives…the rest is commentary.” Although a dime will generate income, i don’t think its a huge deterrent for the average alcohol abuser. I suggest we make it even higher, so this effort acts as a clear and effective disincentive to alcohol abuse.

  3. polinasn Says:

    This is such a great opportunity to have a positive impact on several important public health concerns, yet this bill has met much resistance. The Baltimore Sun called this “the most important piece of legislation to be largely ignored by the General Assembly.” Unfortunately, the bill has already failed to pass twice – once in the last session and a 5 cent tax in the year before.

    Why? There are many sides to this issue, mainly related to the stakeholders involved. The liquor industry is powerful in Maryland. In fact, this is why there has been no increase on the alcohol tax in decades. Also, small business owners oppose the bill since the new tax will have a negative impact on business. These owners already have enough trouble competing with mega-chains without increasing product prices. This is especially a concern for businesses located on the borders of Maryland who believe people will just cross the border to buy cheaper alcohol. These people can not afford to lose business. Lastly, the public is divided over this issue, although there is growing support for the bill. Many people believe that this tax will disproportionately effect the poor since (realistically) a greater portion of their income will now go into alcohol.

    When you look at the facts though, the ten cents makes sense. This tax has the potential to decrease alcoholism and its consequences, such as traffic accidents related to alcohol. At the same time, the money generated will go into supporting programs that are currently suffering because of a lack of funding.


  4. efperlini Says:

    The Dime-A-Drink proposal does seem to kill two birds with one stone. It seems that the incredibly high tobacco taxes in New York combined with the tighter restrictions on where you can smoke has decreased tobacco use. A similar phenomenon may very well occur if the Dime-A-Drink proposal is taken seriously. Lawmakers should not bawk at this, especially as a potential source of revenue that is not out of line with current taxation rates when considered in comparison to the rest of the nation.

    Although there is no guarantee that the rates of alcohol abuse and addiction would decrease, it would seem to be a good start to decreasing consumption in general. Given that adolescents are rather sensitive to changes in price, perhaps a larger effect could be had on this especially at-risk population. If nothing else, lawmakers should capitalize on a tax that would just put them in line with the rest of the country and not try to do something radically different.

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