Spirits lobby blasts Gonorrhea study

Alcohol taxes and gonorrhea. They’re apparently linked, according to a University of Florida study that published a report yesterday showing sharp gonorrhea declines after Maryland sales tax increases.

“If policymakers are looking for methods to protect young people from harmful STIs, they should consider raising alcohol taxes, which have decreased remarkably over the years due to inflation,” said Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., MSPH, an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine department of health outcomes and policy and the study’s lead researcher, in the press release.

Well, not so fast. The alcohol industry is not buying the study and says Staras “cherry picked” data.

In case you wanted to see Maryland's gonorrhea rates, here they are.
In case you wanted to see Maryland’s gonorrhea rates, here they are.

The Distilled Spirits Council called the study “intellectually dishonest.”

According to the study’s press release: “In Maryland, the tax increase resulted in 2,400 fewer statewide cases of gonorrhea during the 18 months after the tax increase went into effect.”

In a statement, Distilled Spirits Council Chief Economist David Ozgo said: “If the study authors’ theory were true, one would expect to see rates of all sexually transmitted infections decline, which clearly was not the case. In fact, syphilis rates skyrocketed at the same time in Maryland following the tax increase.”

DISCUS said the same CDC data used by Staras showed syphilis increased 26% and chlamydia increased nearly 4%.

The lobby also said neighboring states Delaware and Virginia showed similar gonorrhea rate decreases without alcohol tax hikes.

“This is not the first time these University of Florida researchers cherry-picked the data to fit their preconceived hypothesis,” said Ozgo. “This is advocacy-driven research plain and simple.”

Meanwhile, the story will be repeatedly clicked and morning deejays will read the news story, all getting a good laugh. Because, well, it’s gonorrhea.

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2 Replies to “Spirits lobby blasts Gonorrhea study”

  1. Not that I’m advocating for higher liquor taxes, but wouldn’t a more persuasive argument be just using actual tax and inflation data? In the 17 years between the end of prohibition and 1951 the excise tax went from $2 per proof gallon to $10.50 per proof gallon. About 3 times the rate of inflation during that period. In the 65 years since 1951 it has gone from $10.50 to $13.50 per proof gallon. If the tax rate was just keeping pace with inflation the tax rate would be somewhere around $100 per proof gallon right now. With that information preceding it, a proposed tax hike of $2-3 per proof gallon would seem downright reasonable. (my tax and inflation info comes from Oscar Getz’s book on whiskey history from 1978 and the inflation calculator http://www.in2013dollars.com/.)

    I’ll shut up now before any Congress Critters read this and get any ideas.

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