Slate Columnist Reihan Salam Calls for “Prohibition Lite”

Slate columnist Reihan Salam proposes that alcohol taxes should be tripled in order to deter people from drinking

A recent Pew survey regarding legalization of marijuana showed 69 percent of Americans believe that alcohol is more harmful to society than pot. Although the data was intended to show marijuana’s relative harmlessness, Salam sees it as a reason to put a heavier regulation on alcohol. In fact, he is calling for a version of what journalist Greg Beato has dubbed, “Prohibition Lite.”

Salam cites England, “where alcohol-fueled violence is rampant,” and Russia, “where the ruling class has used cheap vodka as a tool to keep the population drunk, passive, and stupid for generations,” as examples of societies ravaged by cheap alcohol. In light of multinational liquor conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch, InBev and MillerCoors’s attempt to work with retail chains to make alcohol cheaper and more accessible, Salam thinks that the government should make it more expensive for people to get drunk. He suggests doing so by tripling the federal alcohol tax from 10 cents a drink to 30 cents a drink. “If anything, 30 cents a drink isn’t high enough,” writes Salam. “Let’s raise the alcohol tax to a point just shy of where large numbers of people will start making illegal moonshine in their bathtubs. 

In addition, Salam wants the government to take a cue from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce the smoking rate, and use a series of social marketing campaigns to sell young people on the dangers of drinking. “This will be extremely difficult because, as I’ve learned to my detriment, being drunk can be quite fun—until you wet the bed or start murdering people,” writes Salam. Sounds like he might need a drink. [Slate] [Photo: Flickr/Torley]