Monday, November 8, 2010

Overstating the Obvious

Last week brought the news of a study published in The Lancet, "Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis", that claims that alcohol is the most lethal drug based on how destructive drugs are to the individual who takes them and to society as a whole.

Well, that's like saying that the automobile is the most dangerous form of personal transportation.

Really, so what?

The Associated Press reported, "Experts said alcohol scored so high because it is so widely used and has devastating consequences not only for drinkers but for those around them."  Yes, devastating for abusers, like anything else.  The AP went on to report that one of the authors, Leslie King, said countries should target problem drinkers, not the vast majority of people who indulge in a drink or two. [I'm on board there.]  He said governments should consider more education programs and raising the price of alcohol so it isn't as widely available.  [Oops, lost me there.]

OK, education that targets problem drinkers makes sense.  But higher taxes punish everyone, abusers and responsible drinkers alike.  It's just prohibition on a smaller scale.  Excise taxes are a sadly antiquated public policy that punishes everyone to prevent the small number of alcohol drinkers who end up as abusers.

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