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State coalition: Increasing alcohol taxes will reduce underage drinking

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A state coalition says the best way to reduce underage drinking is to increase the price of alcohol. They're targeting what's called the excise tax.

Gloria Souhami is the director of the Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Program. She educates students from the 4th through the 12th grade about the dangers of alcohol.

"There's truancy, there's date rape, there's unintended pregnancy, there's assaults, there's all kinds of things that happen when children aren't supervised and impaired in some way," Souhami said.

She says 26 percent of AISD students surveyed last year admitted to having a drink within the past month.

Alex Tapia with Texans Standing Tall, a statewide coalition focused on preventing and reducing underage alcohol use. He says the best way to prevent and reduce underage alcohol use is to make drinking more expensive.

"Youth, they have $20 to spend. They're mostly getting their alcohol in social settings they tell us. So they're pulling that money together, they're buying the cheapest beer they can," Tapia said.

Tapia wants to increase the excise tax on alcohol. The last time it was changed was back in 1984.

As it stands, Texans pay 9.4 cents in taxes per 12 oz. beer, 7.9 cents per five oz. glass of wine and 22.6 cents per 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Tapia says a 25 cent increase in state alcohol excise tax per serving of alcohol would generate $2.2 billion dollars a year for state coffers.

"We're not going to eliminate all underage drinking by increasing the price of alcohol. What we will do is decrease some of the drinking," Tapia said.

"We don't know if it will stop the actual buying but we do know is that it would be a deterrent it may be a second thought," Souhami said.

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