Aim: To measure the impact of taxes and prices on alcohol use with particular attention to the different context of rising alcohol consumption in low- and middle-income countries. Methods: Systematic review: we searched MEDLINE, Embase, EconLit and LILACS, grey literature, hand-searched five specialty journals and examined references of relevant studies. We considered all reviews that included studies that quantitatively examined the relationship between alcohol prices or taxes and alcohol use. At least two reviewers independently screened the articles and extracted the characteristics, methods and main results and assessed the quality of each included study. We identified 30 reviews. Results: There was overwhelming evidence that higher alcohol prices and taxes were associated with lower total alcohol consumption and that price responsiveness varied by beverage type. Total own-price elasticities of alcohol demand were consistently negative and substantial enough to be policy meaningful; total own-price elasticities for beer, wine and spirits were found to be approximately −0.3, −0.6 and −0.65. Reviews generally concluded that higher taxes and prices were associated with lower heavy episodic drinking and heavy drinking, although the magnitude of these associations was generally unclear. Reviews provided no evidence that alcohol price responsiveness differed by socioeconomic status, mixed and contradictory evidence with respect to age and sex and limited evidence that price responsiveness in low- and middle-income countries was approximately the same as in high-income countries. Conclusions: Taxes are effective in reducing alcohol use. Moreover, increasing the price of alcohol by increasing taxes can also be expected to increase tax revenue, because the demand for alcohol is most certainly inelastic.
- low- and middle-income countries