Texas Cancer Plan: Evidence-Based Policies Can Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Risk

In our most recent post, we recognized Breast Cancer Awareness Month by exploring the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

But breast cancer is just one of several types of cancer associated with alcohol consumption – head and neck, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer are among the others. And the link between alcohol and these types of cancer is not hypothetical, anecdotal, or mythical; there is strong scientific consensus since “clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of some cancers.”

Increasing public awareness and education about this connection can be challenging for those of us working in the field of prevention. Which is why we are inspired by a new development.

Last month, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas released their 2018 Texas Cancer Plan. The plan includes 16 goals defined as “broad and lofty” statements that will help guide the state’s action plan for cancer research, prevention, and control.

At Texans Standing Tall, we took special note of Goal #2, which focuses on increasing healthy behaviors to reduce new cases and deaths from cancer. In particular, we were pleased to see that the plan instructs Texans to “support evidence-based policies to address excessive consumption of alcohol, including limits on days of sale, hours of sale, increasing alcohol taxes and regulating alcohol outlet density.”

What is so promising to those of us at TST and our partners across the state is that the language we use every single day in our work – terms like “evidence-based policies” and “alcohol outlet density” – are being articulated in an important report like the Texas Cancer Plan.

These are not simply industry buzz words, and the Texas Cancer Plan is absolutely on target: the strategies they list are proven ways to reduce underage and excessive alcohol use – and the associated cancer risk that comes along with it. They are also critical strategies in achieving a greater mission to create healthier, safer communities; a mission that becomes more possible as these terms become part of our public discourse and policy discussions.

According to the plan, it’s estimated that 44,713 Texans will lose their lives to cancer. Yet nearly 50 percent of new cancers and death from cancers can be prevented if we take the recommended steps to reduce certain risk factors. For example, increasing the alcohol excise tax by a dime a drink would mean at least 77 fewer Texans would die from cancer every year. In addition to saving individual lives, it also means that 77 fewer families would suffer from the devastating loss of a loved one. (See chart below for estimated annual reductions in cancer mortality.)

Statewide policies that reduce access to alcohol and other cancer-causing drugs, like tobacco, will literally save lives in the long run. As the Texas Legislature prepares for its next session in January, consider joining Texans Standing Tall or your local coalition to get involved in the conversation and play a role in preventing cancer deaths.

Source: “Alcohol Attributable Cancer Deaths” addendum from The Effects of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Public Health and Safety in Texas

 

 

 

 

New Tax Law Offers Big Cuts to Alcohol Industry

A month ago, President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act into law.

As with many major reforms, there are winners and losers. One of the lesser-known winners are the beer, spirits, and wine producers, who will get a two-year tax cut worth $4.2 billion dollars.

This reduction in the federal alcohol excise tax has been called a “public health disaster.” That’s because the “losers” are our own communities—the parents, youth, and concerned citizens, who will feel the unintended consequences of these cuts.

Those unintended consequences come in the form of increased alcohol consumption, higher rates of alcohol-related accidents and injuries, and various economic costs related to drinking. They also mean greater loss of life. Already, approximately 88,000 preventable deaths each year are linked to alcohol, and that number could go up under this new tax law.

Going in the wrong direction

Increasing excise taxes is not only good for public health; it’s good for our pocketbooks. A dime-a-drink tax increase would generate more than $700 million in Texas alone, while curbing teen drinking, impaired driving, and other consequences of alcohol consumption.

Although “increasing taxes” can be politically unpopular, it turns out that most voters approve the idea of higher taxes on luxury products like alcohol. They also want the revenue to go to public education and public safety—something we at Texans Standing Tall can fully endorse. (Already, one-quarter of excise taxes go to public education funding—which means cuts to excise taxes equal cuts to public education funding.)

Under the new law, tax cuts to the alcohol industry will be in effect for two years, but it’s possible they might be extended unless we get involved.

That’s why it’s important for communities to speak out, in whatever form you can: call your congressman, attend a Town Hall, write an email, and share your concerns with your friends, family, and social media networks.

As a part of our efforts to help shape a healthier future in which underage alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use have no place, Texans Standing Tall remains committed to supporting measures that keep us moving in the right direction. We think it’s time for change – how about you?