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Could higher taxes on alcohol curb binge drinking?

Excessive drinking is a problem that too often gets overlooked. Today, nearly 150 people from different areas of our community gathered to tackle the problem.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Excessive drinking is a problem that too often gets overlooked. Thursday, nearly 150 people from different areas of our community gathered to tackle the problem.

The New York Alcohol Policy Summit focused on excessive or binge drinking among those under the age, as well as those of age.

"It isn't just an issue with driving. There are a lot of other problems with binge drinking: violence, sexual assaults, risky sexual behavior, but also what we refer to as chronic conditions like high blood pressure, drinking too much increases the risk of cancer,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, with the CDC Alcohol Program.

Dr. Brewer says it’s a matter of taking what they know and putting it into practice.

“Most people who are drinking too much are not alcohol dependent; we have a much better understanding of that. I think there’s a much better understanding of what works to prevent it,” he said.

One of the ideas that came out of the summit is to raise the tax on alcohol, much the way they've raised the tax on cigarettes, maybe not as much as they've done per pack, but certainly to a level that will not impact the casual or moderate drinker but discourage the binge drinker.

“And it can also raise money for services and other programs that have been cut badly in this economy,” said Bob Pezzolesi, NY Alcohol Policy Alliance.

The NY Alcohol Policy Alliance is looking at other policies communities can address or change, like the number of alcohol outlets that cluster in a community, as well as hours and days of sale. The idea isn’t to stop people from drinking what many at the summit are looking to do is to stop or severely discourage binge drinking, which they say causes many problems.

Maryland, Alaska and Illinois are the most recent states to raise taxes on alcohol, both to reduce alcohol consumption and raise revenue.

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