Members of the beer industry are lobbying Congress for passage of a new bill (H.R. 1305) that would lower the national beer tax by 50 percent. Opponents of the bill warn the bill would enable more young people to buy beer.

In a press release issued yesterday, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the National Association of Governor’s Highway Safety Representatives and the Consumer Federation of America joined together and called Congress to reject H.R. 1305.

“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,” according to poll information cited in the release. It also showed that Americans opposed the cut in beer tax by a 2-1 margin.

The National Beer Wholesalers Association, the group spearheading the bill, wants the tax cut to be rolled back to its 1951 level, the release reported. The beer tax has only increased once since then and that was in 1991.
Current beer taxes amount to about 33 cents per six-pack. In 1951 the tax was 15 cents per six-pack.

“Economic reports estimate that the 1991 increase in beer taxes saves more than 600 young lives in alcohol-related crashes each year,” according to the release. “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.”

“Passage of H.R. 1305 will line the pockets of the beer industry and reward heavy drinkers and teens with cheaper beer,” George A. Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at CSPI, said in the release. “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.”

“The national beer tax is one tax Congress should increase, not rollback,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “House leaders should quickly prove that they favor the nation’s health and safety over the corporate greed of the beer industry by speaking against this bill.”

The average American beer drinker consumes about two beers per week, the release reported. That amounts to 11 cents per week in beer tax. Eighty-six percent of drinkers did not think this was an exorbitant amount to pay.

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