State Rep. Tawna Sanchez, a licensed social worker, Rep. Travis Nelson, and Rep. Lisa Reynolds introduced today the Alcohol Harm Reduction Act (HB 3312), which would create a temporary increase in beer and wine pricing in order to fund immediate access to detox and treatment.
Additional funding will be used to educate consumers and children about the adverse health impacts of alcohol, fentanyl, cannabis, and methamphetamines, according to a release from the legislators.
“As too many Oregon families know, excessive alcohol use destroys lives, families, and relationships,” Sanchez said. “Alcohol addiction cuts across income level, race, culture, geography—and politics. That makes reducing the harms of alcohol in our state an issue that should unite everyone. There are over 450,000 people struggling with addiction across Oregon, primarily addiction to alcohol. I believe their lives are worth more than a dime a drink, and I hope my colleagues do too.”
“The out-of-state alcohol industry is trumpeting that this is a 1200% increase, which is intentionally misleading. What they don’t want consumers to know is that it’s just a ten-cent-a-beer increase, spread out over five years,” Oregon Recovers Executive Director Mike Marshall said. “This bill was specifically designed not to negatively impact Oregon’s breweries and wineries; their customers won’t even notice a two-cent-a-year increase. Those who will notice are people who engage in binge drinking and underage drinking—two behaviors predictive of lifetime alcohol addiction. Those folks simply aren’t the customer base of breweries and wineries. Let’s keep the focus on what this bill is all about: addressing Oregon’s alcohol crisis and saving lives.”
By the numbers
Excessive alcohol use is Oregon’s third-leading cause of preventable death. Six people die each day here due to alcohol. In 2020, alcohol-related deaths increased 73%. Oregon ranks 5th nationally in alcohol addiction and 12% of Oregonians have alcohol use disorder, according to the release.
Oregon ranks 50th in access to addiction treatment, with 18% of Oregonians needing but not receiving treatment. Each alcoholic drink sold in Oregon costs local and state governments $2.08 in lost workplace productivity, health care expenses, criminal justice costs, and motor vehicle crashes. The total economic costs of excessive drinking in Oregon were $4.8 billion in 2019, the release states.
Oregon currently has the lowest beer tax and the second lowest wine tax in the country, when factoring in the lack of a state sales tax. Beer taxes are less than 1 cent per bottle, and haven’t been raised since 1977. Wine taxes are 3 cents a glass, and haven’t been raised since 1982. The Alcohol Harm Reduction Act calls for a temporary, incremental price increase to $0.10 per bottle of beer/cider, and $0.17 per glass of wine. The increased pricing sunsets when Oregon’s alcohol addiction rate falls from 12% to 5, according to the release..
The legislators said raising alcohol prices to reduce harmful consumption and fund services is popular with voters. Six in 10 Oregonians support increasing alcohol taxes in order to reduce harmful alcohol use like binge drinking and underage drinking. And 76% support increasing alcohol taxes to fund expanded access to drug and alcohol addiction treatment and recovery support services.
An increase in alcohol pricing is a proven public health tool recommended by the CDC to reduce harmful consumption, just like with tobacco.
The legislators said the tool works, giving the example from Maryland, where a 3 percentage point price increase led to a 26% decline in underage drinking and 17% decline in binge drinking.
According to the legislators' release, many Oregonians and lawmakers incorrectly believe that Measure 110 funding will help address the addiction crisis by expanding access to treatment. But Measure 110 funding cannot be used for prevention, nor will it fund any new treatment beds. Instead, funding is limited to use for referrals to treatment, which often put people on already long waitlists, critically needed harm reduction, and other important recovery supports—but will not reduce addiction rates nor increase access to traditional treatment.
Where the new revenue generated by the Alcohol Harm Reduction Act would be spent:
- Create Immediate Access to Treatment & Detox (25%): Direct OHA to develop and implement a program to provide immediate access to withdrawal management and culturally relevant residential treatment programs for every Oregonian.
- Expand Public Education/Prevention (15%): Direct the Oregon Health Authority to use the revenue for public education campaigns (like “Rethink the Drink”) that specifically educate Oregonians about the health consequences of consuming alcohol, opioids/fentanyl, cannabis, and methamphetamines. Communities most adversely impacted by substances must be prioritized.
- Introduce Consumer Education (10%): Direct the OLCC to implement a point-of-sale consumer education campaign regarding the health consequences of alcohol consumption with a primary focus on addiction, cancer, and impotence.
- Hire County Preventionists (20%): Direct county Behavioral Health and/or Public Health departments to place certified preventionists in every public middle and high school.
- Establish Family Relief Fund (10%): Direct OHA to create a fund to reimburse individuals and families for any insurance deductibles related to withdrawal management, residential and/or outpatient treatment and addiction therapists.
- Support Public Safety (10%): Direct local police to fund hiring certified peer mentors
- Combat Cannabis Cartels (10%): Direct state police to shut down and prosecute illegal cannabis operations across Oregon.
What the Alcohol Harm Reduction Act does:
- Temporarily and incrementally increases beer/cider/wine pricing annually over 5 years.
- Beer/cider pricing: from $0.007/beer to $0.10/beer (2 cents each year)
- Wine pricing: from $0.03/glass to $0.17/glass (3 cents each year)
- Reduces beer/cider consumption by 2.6% and reduces wine consumption by 4.1% — which will be disproportionately felt among binge drinkers and underage drinkers, two behaviors predictive of lifetime addiction.
- Raises new revenue, approximately $350 million/biennium by 2028. Importantly, unlike with Measure 110 dollars, these funds are eligible to be matched by federal dollars.
- Current OLCC revenue recipients continue to receive what they receive now, plus 5%.
About Oregon Recovers
Oregon Recovers is an inclusive statewide coalition of people in recovery–and their friends and family—uniting to transform Oregon healthcare to ensure world-class prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for Oregonians suffering from the disease of addiction.
Follow this developing story here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.
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