The Lorraine Sheehan Alcohol Tax Coalition commends the Maryland General Assembly for voting to raise an alcohol specific tax for the first time in 40 years.  We urge Governor Martin O’Malley to sign this life-saving measure.


This historic public health measure will save numerous lives by reducing underage drinking and preventing thousands of alcohol related harmful incidents. It will also raise significant revenue that will help fund chronically under funded programs for people with developmental disabilities. In future years, we will work with the Governor and General Assembly to use this revenue to help fund all the critical needs identified in the original Lorraine Sheehan legislation (health care coverage, programs for people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs, drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse prevention, cessation and treatment, and health care worker training).


The coalition, which was formed in honor of the late hero of the unheard, Lorraine Sheehan, is thrilled today to stand together and celebrate this great victory for Maryland.  We give special thanks to our lead sponsors from the beginning — Senators Verna Jones-Rodwell and Rich Madaleno and Delegate Jim Hubbard.


“We join national public health leaders (see comments on back) in thanking the Maryland General Assembly for taking this courageous action to reduce underage drinking and alcohol abuse in our state,” said Vincent DeMarco, President of the Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition. “We will work closely with Governor O’Malley and the General Assembly to ensure that the revenue raised will be used for critical health care and community service needs.”


Revenue generated by this increase in the alcohol tax will provide desperately needed services to people with developmental disabilities across Maryland. Carol Fried, with the Developmental Disabilities Coalition, said, “Having a child with developmental disabilities, I know that this new funding will bring a lifeline of services to many people in crisis who have languished on a waiting list far too long. Families and people with developmental disabilities are grateful for the leadership of the General Assembly in taking a big step forward to meet people’s needs”.


“This is a great victory,” stated Nancy Rosen-Cohen, Executive Director of the Maryland Chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.  “Alcohol abuse and alcoholism devastate individuals and families throughout Maryland and this small price increase will have a tremendously positive impact.”


“With the passage of the alcohol tax, the Maryland General Assembly has led the way nationally by enacting prudent fiscal policy that both addresses the heightened need for disability services and accomplishes the public health goal of reducing alcohol abuse,” said Linda Raines, Chair of the Maryland Mental Health Coalition.  “We applaud our state senators and delegates for protecting people with disabilities in these tough economic times.”


“At a time when other states are abandoning their most vulnerable residents, Maryland is showing it’s possible to be fiscally responsible and protect vital public services like mental health care and support for people with disabilities,” said John Reid, executive vice president of the Maryland/DC Division of 1199SEIU-United Healthcare Workers East. “This long overdue adjustment to the alcohol tax is a wise investment in a healthy Maryland.”


Statements by National Leaders Praising Maryland Alcohol Tax Increase

Baltimore, MD – The historic passage of the alcohol tax increase bill in Maryland is laudable and long overdue. Taxes on liquor have not been raised since 1955 in Maryland and were among the lowest in the nation.  Over the next decade, this tax will raise hundreds millions of dollars.  It will also save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of cases of alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and other alcohol-related problems.  Because it is a sales tax, it will rise with inflation, unlike existing alcohol excise taxes, so its public health and revenue benefits will persist in to the future.  The research literature on this subject is huge and overwhelmingly shows that alcohol taxes promote health and safety of our citizens, raise needed funds for cash-strapped states, and improve productivity and are good for the state’s economy.

David H. Jernigan PhD,

Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

New York, NY – The passage of the alcohol tax increase bill in Maryland, long supported by NCADD, is an important victory for families and individuals fighting the stigma and the disease of alcoholism and other drug addictions. A portion of the projected hundreds of millions of dollars this tax will raise over the next decade could and should be used to fund alcohol abuse prevention and treatment programs for youth and adults, as well as provide other needed health services. Research studies have shown that an increase in alcohol taxes results in less drinking across the board—from young people to heavy drinkers—, which in turn leads to decreases in alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Research further indicates that reduced alcohol consumption as a result of the 3 percent increase in the sales tax on alcohol will prevent close to 6,000 cases of alcohol dependence or abuse in the state each year. The estimated decline in alcohol-related problems, accompanied by a boost in revenue for alcohol treatment and recovery advocacy programs resulting from the new alcohol tax, will prove that Maryland cares about the health and safety of all its citizens.  NCADD would like to congratulate our state Affiliate, NCADD Maryland, and all of their partners for their effective education and advocacy campaign, which formed the foundation of support needed for action by the legislature.

Robert J. Lindsey, M.Ed., CEAP

President/CEO, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD)


Baltimore, MDThe passage of the alcohol excise tax increase bill shows that Marylanders care about reducing drunk driving, underage drinking and other manifestations of alcohol dependence and abuse. Quite simply, raising alcohol taxes lowers the rates of alcohol-induced deaths and accidents. According to a recent study, doubling the average state tax on alcohol would cut traffic fatalities by 11 percent and alcohol-related mortality by 35 percent. Raising Maryland’s alcohol sales tax by 3 percent will cut alcohol consumption by nearly two percent, including among heavy drinkers and young people, and save at least three lives per year on Maryland’s roadways. This historic tax increase is good for our state, good for our families and children, and helps to make the state a safer place for all of us.

Caroline Cash, Executive Director, MADD Maryland


Last modified: April 12, 2011