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Beer tax not answer to STD prevention

By The Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
May 2, 2000
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Manipulation is a delicate tool and - when used properly - a fine art. But when stretched beyond natural limitations, it can run to two extremes: heartache or senselessness.

Many people walk the senseless path with language, distorting it to yield more self-serving results. Researchers also throw together information in a manner that infers relation where there is none. Such is often the case with poll results and the verbiage used to describe tests and studies.

Recent perpetrators are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released a study this weekend comparing the changes in gonorrhea rates to changes in alcohol policy. The study looked at all states from 1981 to 1995.

It revealed that in years following beer tax increases, gonorrhea rates usually dropped among young people. The same happened when the drinking age went up - as it did in many states in the 1980s.

The study analyzed the drops in gonorrhea rates following different tax increases and came up with the estimate that a 20-cent increase per six-pack would lead to a 9 percent drop in gonorrhea rates.

The CDC says they chose gonorrhea because it is more evenly spread among the states and has more long-term statistics available.

But this looks more like a roll of the dice, landing on gonorrhea and cheap beer. The study could have been Guinness Stout vs. Key Light in an all-out VD death match, for these intensive purposes.

Harrell Cheson, a health economist with the CDC, said, "alcohol has been linked to risky sexual behavior among youth," but it is illogical to assume that because a young person drinks beer that costs a few cents less than others, he or she will contract a venereal disease.

Of course an uncured disease and preventative battles will force gonorrhea rates to a natural plateau, and we are slowly reaching a smaller scale on which to weigh the disease.

But there are several factors in the lowering of a disease rate - and excise taxes are more than likely among the major contributors.

More and more public service announcments advertise the use of condoms and the practice of abstinence as positive - if not necessary - parts of adult and teen-age relationships.

And more and more young people are aware of the danger of sexually transmitted diseases. The minority of teen-agers and young adults with multiple or high-risk partners are the more likely to contract gonorrhea - and those who practice safe sex should not be fined for their actions.

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