Assessing the impact of alcohol taxation on rates of violent victimization in a large urban area: an agent-based modeling approach

Addiction. 2019 Feb;114(2):236-247. doi: 10.1111/add.14470. Epub 2018 Nov 16.


Aims: To use simulation to estimate the impact of alcohol taxation on drinking, non-fatal violent victimization and homicide in New York City (NYC). We simulate the heterogeneous effects of alcohol price elasticities by income, level of consumption and beverage preferences, and examine whether taxation can reduce income inequalities in alcohol-related violence.

Design: Agent-based modeling simulation.

Setting: NYC, USA.

Participants: Adult population aged 18-64 years in the year 2000 in the 59 community districts of NYC. The population of 256 500 agents approximates a 5% sample of the NYC population.

Measurements: Agents were parameterized through a series of rules that governed alcohol consumption and engagement in violence. Six taxation interventions were implemented based on extensive reviews and meta-analyses, increasing universal alcohol tax by 1, 5 and 10%, and beer tax by 1, 5 and 10%.

Findings: Under no tax increase, approximately 12.2% [95% credible interval (prediction interval, PI) = 12.1-12.3%] were heavy drinkers. Taxation decreased the proportion of heavy drinkers; a 10% tax decreased heavy drinking to 9.6% (95% PI = 9.4-9.8). Beer taxes had the strongest effect on population consumption. Taxation influenced those in the lowest income groups more than the highest income groups. Alcohol-related homicide decreased from 3.22 per 100 000 (95% PI = 2.50-3.73) to 2.40 per 100 000 under a 10% universal tax (95% PI = 1.92-2.94). This translates into an anticipated benefit of ~1200 lives/year.

Conclusion: Reductions in alcohol consumption in a large urban environment such as New York City can be sustained with modest increases in universal taxation. Alcohol tax increases also have a modest effect on alcohol-related violent victimization. Taxation policies reduce income inequalities in alcohol-related violence.

Keywords: Agent-based modeling; alcohol; complex system; homicide; taxation; taxes; violence; violent victimization.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / economics
  • Alcoholic Beverages / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Taxes*
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult