New Snapshot! Raising alcohol prices and decreasing availability reduces alcohol-related harms

What you need to know:

Many studies have shown that raising alcohol taxes or prices reduced alcohol-related harms such as violence, crimes, vehicle crashes, chronic diseases, transmission of STDs, and suicide. Decreasing hours of sale or decreasing availability of alcohol resulted in less consumption of alcohol and a significant decrease in alcohol-related harms.

Download the PDF version of the Research Snapshot here

What is this research about?

Alcohol pricing refers to the price and or taxes on alcohol. Alcohol availability refers to a number of factors including: hours of sale, days of sale, type of alcohol retailing system, and density of alcohol outlets. Studies have shown that policies do have an influence when it comes to reducing alcohol-related harms.

This paper looked at a number of studies in order to explore how alcohol pricing and availability impact the population. Specifically it looked at reducing alcohol consumption and high-risk drinking that lead to harmful consequences.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers looked at papers published between 2005—2015. They searched for studies using key words such as alcohol drinking, drink, price, tax, hours of sale, access, and availability.

Studies were selected as long as they met specific inclusion criterion. For example, studies needed to include some aspect of how change in alcohol pricing or availability affected the population and how policies influenced these changes. 

What did the researchers find?

Altering the price of alcohol can have a number of positive impacts.

  • Raising alcohol prices reduced heavy or chronic drinking among adults.
  • Doubling the alcohol tax reduced alcohol-related deaths by roughly 35%, vehicle crash deaths by 11%, prevalence of STDs by 6%, violence by 2% and crime by 1.4%, including rape and robbery.
  • Altering alcohol tax and pricing policies affected death rates including cirrhosis death rates, chronic diseases, violence, suicide, vehicle crashes and deaths, and STDs.

Making alcohol less available also showed positive results.

  • Restricting evening hours of alcohol sale was linked to less consumption of alcohol.
  • Extending closing hours by one hour resulted in a significant increase of crime including assaults.
  • Increasing access to alcohol was found to be related to a range of alcohol-related harms such as pedestrian injuries, child maltreatment, and STI transmission.
  • Alcohol pricing and availability measures were found to impact both men and women, and all age groups.

How can you use this research

This study may be useful when considering policy and legislation changes across Ontario. Alcohol policies and legislation are important in addressing how to reduce alcohol-related harms.

Limitations and next steps

Future research should look into how policies affect populations by their ethnicity, culture and social economic status. It would also be good to look into how changes in alcohol availability and pricing can impact those around the affected, for example, family members or spouses who may be affected by alcohol-related violence. 

About the researchers*

Norman Giesbrecht1,2, Ashley Wettlaufer1, Samantha Cukier3, Gillian Geddie4, André-Henrique Gonçalves5, Emilene Reisdorfer1

1 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada

2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto, Canada

3 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center on Alcohol Marketing & Youth, Baltimore, United States

4 Royal Holloway University of London, London, United Kingdom

5 Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Brazil


*affiliation at the time of publication of the paper


Alcohol, alcohol prices, alcohol availability, harm reduction



This Research Snapshot is based on their article, “Do alcohol pricing and availability policies have differential effects on sub-populations? A commentary,” which was published in the International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, The Official Journal of the Kettil Bruun Society for Social and Epidemiological Research on Alcohol. DOI:10.7895/ijadr.v5i3.227