A full review of the relevant epidemiological literature on moderate drinking is beyond the scope of this document. However, an initial scan leaves me reasonably confident that tax increases save lives in the long run too. The reasons:
- No randomized trials have checked on the benefits of moderate drinking (Holmes et al. 2014, p. 4).
- The belief in such benefits derives from non-experimental, observational studies, whose claims to causal identification make them akin to the alcohol tax studies passed over for low credibility in this review. In epidemiology, as in economics, observational studies have come under a shadow in the last decade or so, as randomized trials have upended established doctrines such as the belief that hormone replacement therapy reduces heart disease and cancer (Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators 2002).
In light of these facts, Occam’s Razor argues for a simple theory: the net marginal impact of drinking on health is negative at all levels; and moderate drinking is a marker for relative youth, affluence, and healthy habits rather than a cause of good health (Chikritzhs et al. 2015). Pending high-quality evidence to the contrary, alcohol taxes should be presumed to save even more lives in the long run.
I’m holding out hope that heavy drinking is good for your health.