Impact of Maryland’s 2011 alcohol sales tax increase on alcoholic beverage sales

Marissa B. Esser, Hugh Waters, Mieka Smart, David H. Jernigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: Background: Increasing alcohol taxes has proven effective in reducing alcohol consumption, but the effects of alcohol sales taxes on sales of specific alcoholic beverages have received little research attention. Data on sales are generally less subject to reporting biases than self-reported patterns of alcohol consumption. Objectives: We aimed to assess the effects of Maryland’s July 1, 2011 three percentage point increase in the alcohol sales tax (6–9%) on beverage-specific and total alcohol sales. Methods: Using county-level data on Maryland’s monthly alcohol sales in gallons for 2010–2012, by beverage type, multilevel mixed effects multiple linear regression models estimated the effects of the tax increase on alcohol sales. We controlled for seasonality, county characteristics, and national unemployment rates in the main analyses. Results: In the 18 months after the tax increase, average per capita sales of spirits were 5.1% lower (p < 0.001), beer sales were 3.2% lower (p < 0.001), and wine sales were 2.5% lower (p < 0.01) relative to what would have been expected from sales trends in the 18 months prior to the tax increase. Overall, the alcohol sales tax increase was associated with a 3.8% decline in total alcohol sold relative to what would have been expected based on sales in the prior 18 months (p < 0.001). Conclusion: The findings suggest that increased alcohol sales taxes may be as effective as excise taxes in reducing alcohol consumption and related problems. Sales taxes also have the added advantages of rising with inflation and taxing the highest priced beverages most heavily.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-411
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016


  • Alcohol sales
  • alcohol consumption
  • alcohol policy
  • alcohol sales taxes
  • alcohol taxes
  • prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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