Alexander Ahammer, Stefan Bauernschuster, Martin Halla, Hannah Lachenmaier, 27 March 2021

Teenage binge drinking is more prevalent in Europe than in the US, where alcohol is forbidden to people under the age of 21. This column looks at the relationship between minimum legal drinking ages and alcohol abuse. Using administrative health and survey data from Austria, it finds significantly increased alcohol consumption – particularly among boys and those from underprivileged backgrounds – when drinking becomes legal. Raising the minimum legal drinking age in Europe could reduce alcohol poisonings and the early socioeconomic gradient in teenage binge drinking. 

Rachel Griffith, Martin O'Connell, Kate Smith, 11 December 2020

Negative externalities from consumption are common, ranging from the social and health costs of drinking, smoking or drug abuse, to the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel use. This column exploits the introduction of a price floor for alcohol in Scotland but not in other parts of the UK to assess the efficacy of a price floor for tackling the externalities associated with alcohol consumption. It shows that, if the external cost of an additional drink is at least moderately higher for heavy compared with lighter drinkers, then a price floor leads to larger welfare gains than a simple Pigouvian-style tax on ethanol. However, a tax system that taxes the ethanol in stronger drinks more heavily can do as well as a price floor at reducing heavy drinking while raising tax revenue.

Kate Smith, 24 April 2017

Alcohol consumption can have negative externalities. In this video, Kate Smith discusses how to design taxes when costs associated with drinking vary across people. This video was recorded at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference in April 2017.

Lorenz Kueng, Evgeny Yakovlev, 10 September 2014

Understanding consumer behaviour is crucial for many economic questions. This column looks at the persistence of consumer habits towards alcohol among Russian males. Beer sales expanded rapidly after the collapse of the Soviet Union both in levels and relative to vodka sales, driven mainly by the beer consumption of cohorts born in the 1980s and 1990s. The authors estimate that this trend will reduce the male mortality rate in Russia by one quarter in the next 20 years.

Joan Costa-i-Font, 30 June 2014

Addicts may not respond to price incentives as we would expect. This problem, combined with the fear of disproportionally taxing the poor, makes it difficult to address the consumption externalities caused by addictive substances. This column reviews recent literature showing the efficacy of minimum pricing on alcohol, and the curious result that alcohol consumption now seems to be increasing in household income.


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