To help pay for a proposed $3.5 trillion spending package, some congressional Democrats have suggested raising the current tax on cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products. It’s promising to see a willingness to use necessary revenue measures to reduce demand for products that generate enormous social costs. For that same reason, Congress should consider raising the federal excise tax on alcohol.
Decades of high-profile anti-smoking campaigns have made common knowledge the grim fact that cigarettes kill 480,000 Americans and drain society hundreds of billions in medical costs and lost productivity annually. Far more surprising is that the costs of excessive alcohol userival those of smoking. Alcohol may kill fewer people directly, but it creates more deadly externalities in the form of violence, impaired driving, and family instability.