A summary presentation of the following research:
Wagenaar, Alexander C., PhD. Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina, PhD, and
Bradley H. Wagenaar, BA, Effects of Alcohol Tax Increases on Alcohol-
Related Disease Mortality in Alaska: Time-Series Analyses From 1976-
2004 2009 Am J Public Health 99 no8 2009
As it relates to the textbook:
Kendall, Diana Sociology in Our Times, Seventh Edition 2008
Textbook adopted in the Introduction to Sociology Class;
Spring Semester 2010, Section 380, Edison State College,
Charlotte Campus; Instructor: John R. Carlson, Ph.D.
While also in part addressing a
question posed at the end of the
The degree to which the five primary
institutions in the U.S. (Marriage and
Family, Economic, Political System,
Education and Religion) in the U.S.
Operate in terms of the Rights and
Freedoms that are posited in our
A scientific discipline is described as a specialized body of knowledge
that is based on theory, hypotheses, observations, and problems which
are explained by empirical research.
The three components of science, as discussed in the course are:
1) the use of the scientific method;
2) the two branches being applied and pure
comprise the field; by pure, research is conducted to further
knowledge about a subject matter, while this knowledge often yield
practical benefit, namely, the applied outgrowth of the research;
3) and science adheres to a basic code of ethics.
- bias toward maximizing objectivity with respect to how the
research is conducted, how the variables are measured and the
manner in which the data is analyzed;
- treatment of the source of information, namely, human beings,
requires that such ethical standards as maintaining the subjects
privacy is preserved.
. Functionalists view the economy as a
vital social institution because it is the
means by which needed goods and
services are produced and distributed.
This study measures the relationship of
the effects of alcohol tax related to the
incidence of alcohol related disease
and mortality rates in Alaska
Functionalist Perspective of Economy and
Work in the U.S.
•Functionalists view the economy as a vital social
institution, Our constitution, emphasizing freedom of
choice, balance of power, etc., serve as guiding
principles for how our institutions should collectively
operate (aka homeostasis).
•When the economy runs smoothly, society functions
•If the system becomes unbalanced, such as when
demand does not keep up with production, a
The authors indicated that more than
100 studies have examined the
relationship between alcoholic
beverage prices (or alcohol tax rates
as a surrogate for prices.) and various
indices of sales or consumption of
According to the supply and demand
aggregate, when price/tax levels
increase there is a decrease in alcohol
sales/consumption. This leads to the
result of inflation
Apparent Short-comings of this study
The fact that the article is only looking at Alaska
and that Alaska has one of the highest rates of
alcohol related incidents seems bias.
Alaska is indeed a unique state in terms of its
geography, economic base and the like.
However, as Dr. Carlson pointed out, scientific
inquiry is by definition very focused in terms of the
Subject that is investigated;
Understanding this relationship in Alaska can be
extended to other states, to see if similar findings
In essence, knowledge builds upon other
We utilized a time-series quasi-experimental
design, which is similar to an experiment in that
it is intended to identify the effect of an
intervention while using comparison data sets
to rule out or control for possible alternative
explanations for the effect.
Data on alcohol tax rates in Alaska were
collected from a number of sources. The Alcohol
Policy Information System provides
summaries of US state and federal tax rates for
multiple classes of alcoholic beverages, details
on changes in rates, full legal citations, and text
from the relevant codified statutes, starting
with calendar year 2003 .47-'9
Data for the period prior to 2003 were collected by experienced
research attorneys who used standard
legal research methods to search the records of
codified statutes in Westlaw databases (http://
www.westlaw.com, fee-based membership) when
available, and who searched law library hardcopy
materials for earlier years.
Data on alcohol-related mortality outcomes
were based on death-certificate data recorded
by the National Vital Statistics System of the
National Center for Health Statistics. which
includes all deaths occurring within the United
We obtained the complete annual data
set containing 1 record on each deceased person
for each year from 1976 through 2004
from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
5" From these data we created quarterly
counts of deaths stratified by underlying cause of
death, first for Alaska and then for the other
states as a group
We cumulated counts by cause of death into
3 outcome variables. (1) Alcohol-caused mortality,
which represents all deaths caused by
diseases for which the alcohol-attributable
fraction is 1.0 (e.g., alcoholic liver disease,
alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis, alcohol
psychoses, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence
syndrome, alcoholic polyneuropathy, alcoholic
cardiomyopathy, alcoholic gastritis, and acute
(2) Alcohol-related mortality,
which represents all deaths caused by
diseases with alcohol-attributable fractions
0.35 and higher but less than 1.0 (i.e., other
cirrhosis; cholelithiasis; acute and chronic
pancreatitis; malignant neoplasms of the
mouth, pharynx, esophagus, liver, and breast;
epilepsy; and cardiovascular diseases including
hypertension, ischemia, arrhythrnia, cerebrovascular
disease, and ischemic and hemorrhagic
(3) The third variable is the sum
of the first 2 variables.
There is an inverse relationship between Price/Tax level and Alcohol
Sale/Consumption, this means that when the price level decreases
the sales/consumption of alcohol increases.
If the prices increase and the usage decreases, there should be a
decrease in mortality rates.
increase of taxes decreases the
mortality rate in the previous
chart…..temporarily….so we think……
Price is a direct relationship correlation and is always increasing
because of the increase of the money supply in the economy. (Data
extracted on: April 15, 2010 (2:40:18 PM))
There was a significant decrease in mortality
after a tax increase was implemented.
The temporary decrease is a result of several
outlier variables such as population and
Results show statistically significant reductions in
the numbers of deaths caused by alcohol
related disease beginning immediately after
the 1983 and 2002 alcohol tax increases in
Should we then conclude that for
promoting the welfare of the citizenry,
the imposition of so-called aggressive sin
taxes is justifiable?;
In other words, punishing financially
those who adopt such poor life-style
choices as excessive alcohol
consumption at face value seemingly
counters their negative desires.
However, an interesting point of reference was not made
in this article regarding government policy; the lessons
learned from the prohibition era in this country.
Prohibition was a period of nearly fourteen years of U.S.
history in which the manufacture, sale, and transportation of
liquor was made illegal. It led to the first and only time and
amendment to the U.S. Constitution was repealed.
After the American Revolution drinking was on the rise. The
anti prohibition movement gained strength and was
repealed by the masses. The stock market crash in 1929 and
the beginning of The Great Depression gave way for the 21st
amendment repealing the 18th in order to stimulate the
economy; reinstate alcohol commerce.
It is paradoxical that we learned in class on one hand
our government provide financial incentives to further
state sponsored gambling, a practice that has ruined
many financially, leading to other deviant practices
(i.e., prostitution, loan sharking, etc.,), while taxing
cigarettes and alcohol; even wanting to impose a tax
on those that can afford so called cadillac health
We grapple with such issues, and all of us should
certainly consider scientific findings to make sense of
the world around us; to take such information into
account in directing our views and actions.
However, in turn though, an understanding of our
country’s heritage and basic principles for which our
country was founded provide an important context for
defining the practical side of much of the scientific
research findings we have before us.
Furthermore, drawing from one of the basic premises of
psychology, a social scientific field that was briefly described in
class, as we discussed how sociology is one of the social sciences,
we learned that negative reinforcement is not as powerful in
affecting desirous behavior as is when positive reinforcers result
when one engages in desired conduct;
Hence taxing, being a negative reinforcer is not expected to be
as powerful a motivator as when positive reinforcement is utilized
For example, with respect to the health care debate addressed in
class, we remain in this country given our fee for service based
health care delivery system, operating with the notion that
symptoms are treated and charged, while relatively little attention
is devoted to prevention.
Health care premiums, should they not be differentially assigned
based on one’s overall health condition; especially those
conditions that surface as a result of life style choice. In other
words, provide financial incentive for not being an alcoholic as
opposed to taxing those that use alcohol