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Simon M. Rosen, Marin Institute Ted R. Miller, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Michele R. Simon, Marin Institute. The Cost of Alcohol in California. California Largest Alcohol Market in the U.S. Spirits - 47.66*. Wine 117.84*. Beer 651.25*.

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Simon M. Rosen, Marin InstituteTed R. Miller, Pacific Institute for Research and EvaluationMichele R. Simon, Marin Institute

The Cost ofAlcohol in California

california largest alcohol market in the u s
CaliforniaLargest Alcohol Market in the U.S.

Spirits - 47.66*





  • California alcohol sales $19.5 billion in 2005
  • More than 817,322,000 gallons of alcohol were sold in California in 2005*
  • Beer represented almost 80% of these sales

*Source: NIAAA California Alcohol Sales


What’s NewAbout This Study?

  • First comprehensive study in California estimating the total cost of alcohol in the state
  • Includes quality of life costs, as analyzed in Ted Miller’s national study on underage drinking*
  • Examines the role of alcohol in risky sexual behavior, the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy

*Ted Miller et al., 2005 – Societal Cost of Underage Drinking



  • We analyzed moderate-to-high consumption effects
  • For each of type of harm, we found the number of non-fatal and fatal cases that occurred in California
  • We then estimated the proportion of those cases attributable to alcohol use
  • Finally, we estimated the cost of each case

Types of Harm Associated with Alcohol






Types of Costs

Related to Alcohol Use

Value of tangible goods and services

(e.g. adjudication and sanctioning costs of an assault)

Direct Costs

Loss of work either in the workplace or at home

(e.g. lost work of the victim of an assault)

Indirect Costs

Pain, suffering, and lost quality of life

(e.g. reduced quality of life due to permanent physical and/or mental trauma)

Quality of Life Costs


Alcohol-related Deaths 9,439

Deaths caused by:

  • Illness: 5,382 (more than half)
  • Injury: 2,371
  • Traffic Collision: 1,144
  • Violent Crime: 533
  • One person dies every hour due to alcohol use

The Cost of Alcohol in California

$38 Billion

  • Roughly $1,000 per California resident or $3,000 per family
  • A cost of $2.80 per drink consumed
  • Current taxes are only 8 cents per drink

Breakdown of Costs

$5.4 billion in medical costs

$7.8 billion in criminal justice and highway patrol costs

$25.3 billion in lost productivity

22% ($8.3 billion) of all costs fall on government finances


How Alcohol Destroys Health

The Cost of Alcohol-related Illness

Total economic costs are $18.2 billion

Digestive diseases such as liver cirrhosis cause 3,357 deaths

Alcohol causes 49,400high-risk sex incidents


How Alcohol Causes Bodily Harm

Injury and Traffic Collisions

3,524 deaths each year and 109,917 non-fatal injuries

784 suicides annually

26% of all traffic deaths are caused by alcohol

Annual economic cost of injury and traffic collisions totals $12.4 billion


How Alcohol Contributes to Crime

The Cost of Violence

90% of crime costs are for violent crime

Over 360,000 assaults, 26,000 rapes and 10,000 incidents of child abuse

Alcohol-fueled violent crime costs the medical and mental health sectors $800 million and the criminal justice system $4.8 billion


Quality of Life Costs

Total quality of life costs: $48.8 billion

This is the equivalent of losing 14,400 lives in California annually

Fatalities from illness, injury, traffic collisions, and crime account for 51% of quality of life costs

The remaining 49% is borne by survivors of alcohol-related crime, injury, traffic collisions, and illnesses

Permanent disability caused by injury and traffic collisions accounts for $13.4 billion in costs, while the victims of rape and assault and their families bear $8.6 billion in quality of life costs


Comparing Alcohol with Other Disasters

Alcohol costs are more than twice that of tobacco

Equal to a Northridge-style earthquake every year

Higher than Loma Prieta, Oakland fires, and So. Cal. fires (2003) combined


What Can We Do?

  • The devastating toll of alcohol harm in California is not inevitable
  • Most, if not all, costs can be entirely prevented
  • Enacting effective government policies could significantly reduce much of the harm caused by alcohol


1) Require an annual study on the societal harm and costs caused by alcohol consumption in California

2) Adequately fund counties and cities to mitigate and prevent harm

3) Curb alcohol industry lobbying and influence which blocks public policy efforts to reduce harm

4) Raise fees by implementing an alcohol producer surcharge to cover government programs

5) Raise alcohol excise taxes to reduce excessive consumption and the related harm and costs


Citation and Contact

Published Article

Rosen, SM, Miller, TR, Simon, M (2008). The Cost of Alcohol in California. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Vol. 32 No. 11.

Simon Rosen

(415) 257-2487