Stop the Beer Tax Rollback
Reject HR 1305
Mothers Against Drunk Driving •
Center for Science in the Public Interest • National Association of
Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives • Consumer Federation of America
AND CONSUMER GROUPS, AMERICAN PUBLIC JUST SAY NO
INDUSTRY’S “ROLL BACK THE BEER TAX” BREAK
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 16, 2002) – As members of the
beer industry roam the halls of Congress this week to seek passage of
legislation (H.R. 1305) to cut the national beer tax by 50 percent, a
coalition of health, safety and consumer groups today warned of dire
consequences if the beer industry gets its way.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Center for
Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) were joined by the National
Association of Governors’ Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) and the
Consumer Federation of America (CFA) to urge Congress to reject H.R. 1305.
They also released a national public opinion poll showing that by a 2 to 1
margin, Americans oppose rolling back the federal excise tax on beer. The
majority of Americans – 71 percent – would support increasing
the national beer tax a few cents per bottle to equal the tax on liquor if
the funds were used for substance abuse prevention.
The National Beer
Wholesalers Association is spearheading H.R. 1305, a bill to roll back the
federal beer excise tax to its 1951 level. Since that time, the beer tax
has been increased only once, in 1991. Today, the beer tax amounts to $18
per 31-gallon barrel or approximately 33 cents per six-pack. Had the tax
kept up with inflation since 1951, the rate today would be more than $50 per
barrel or more than a dollar per six-pack. The beer industry's proposed
rollback would restore the 1951 tax rate of $9 per barrel or about 15 cents
Economic reports estimate that
the 1991 increase in beer taxes saves more than 600 young lives in
alcohol-related crashes each year. In 2000, alcohol-related traffic deaths
rose to 16,653, which was the largest percentage increase on record.
Research shows higher beer taxes result in fewer alcohol-related fatalities.
The health and safety groups warned that alcohol is
already a major public health and safety crisis among the nation’s youth:
Alcohol kills 6.5 times more young Americans than all
other illicit drugs combined.
Alcohol is the No. 1 drug
problem among young people, who consume 10 percent of all beer sold in the
U.S. or 1.1 billion cans of beer annually.
Beer is the drink of choice in most cases of heavy
drinking, binge drinking, drunk driving and underage drinking.
An estimated 1,400 college students (ages 18 to 24)
die, 500,000 are injured, more than 70,000 are sexually assaulted, and
400,000 engage in unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol
each year. Last year alone, 2.1 million drove under the influence.
Millie I. Webb, national president of Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (MADD) warned that, “Lower taxes and prices will likely mean
that price-sensitive young people will drink more and will die more in
crashes and by other alcohol-related causes.”
The beer industry claims that the federal excise tax on
beer is a burden for consumers. But the MADD-CSPI poll shows that the
majority of Americans (62 percent) feel that the current federal excise tax
on beer is about right or too low.
The poll also found that 75 percent of all Americans
believe that a beer tax cut would economically benefit the beer industry –
more than consumers. About 77 percent of drinkers agreed. When told that
the average American who drinks beer consumes only about two beers per week,
and pays around 11 cents per week in national beer tax, 86 percent of
drinkers did not think this was too high a burden, even for moderate
“Passage of H.R. 1305 will line the pockets of the beer
industry and reward heavy drinkers and teens with cheaper beer,” said George
A. Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for
Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “The beer industry claims that beer
taxes hurt working and low-income people the most, yet producers boost
prices whenever they want to maximize profits."
Last fall, for instance, Anheuser-Busch increased
U.S. beer prices and recorded an 8.9 percent jump in fourth-quarter
profits. In four months the company made $228 million in profits, revenue
grew 2.6 percent, but sales were up only 0.3 percent. “Clearly, the
beer-tax rollback is only one component of the industry’s strategy to gain
profits, regardless of the health and safety hazards it would impose on the
American people,” Hacker said.
Alcohol problems cost American society more than $184
billion in 1998 in health care, criminal justice, social services, property
damage, and loss of productivity expenses. Alcohol is a factor in as many
as 105,000 deaths annually in the United States and a primary contributor to
a wide array of health problems and human suffering. These include various
cancers, liver disease, alcoholism, brain disorders, motor vehicle crashes,
violence, crime, spousal and child abuse, drownings, and suicides.
NAGHSR Executive Director Barbara Harsha said, “One
of the major causes of death and disabling injury on our highways is
drinking and driving. Teens make up a disproportionate number of these
tragic deaths with more than 2,300 killed nationwide in 2000 alone. Given
this, why lower the beer tax, which will make it easier for youth to drink
and drive? H.R. 1305 is simply bad policy that will only make the problem
CFA Assistant Director Art Jaeger charged that the beer
industry “misleadingly claims that taxes represent 44 percent of the retail
price of beer. What they don’t tell you is that this calculation includes
sales and excise taxes, federal income and payroll taxes, state and local
income, payroll and other taxes collected from producers of all products.
The fact is, the federal beer excise tax amounts to less than 7 percent of
the average price of a six-pack, Jaeger said. “A beer tax rollback would
also rob the U.S. treasury of about $1.75 billion each year at a time when
federal funds fall far short of addressing the nation’s massive
The group also said that beer industry spending on
“prevention” messages and programs is far outweighed by what it spends
promoting, glamorizing, and normalizing the use of its products.
Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest beer producer, says that it spent some
$300 million on alcohol education and awareness efforts between 1982 and
2000, or about $15 million per year. In the year 2000 alone the company
spent more than $355 million advertising its products, and likely more than
double that on promotions, sponsorships, and discounts. For every dollar
it spends on alcohol education, the company spends at least $50 promoting
For more information, please visit the following web