Wisconsin alcohol sales increase; La Crosse doctor notes negative implications

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, data reveals its profound impact on the culture. Here in Wisconsin, a new preliminary report says revenue from state excise taxes on alcohol went up 17% during the last fiscal year.

This is an increase from $63.3 million in revenue to $73.8 million. The Wisconsin Policy Forum said that the percentage increase in alcohol tax collection exceeded 2.4% only once between 2009 and 2020.

The increase in alcohol tax collection exceeded 2.4% in only one year between 2009 and 2020, the report said. This percentage increase is the sharpest since the ’70s.

Alcohol excise taxes in Wisconsin are based on the volume sold, not price. Beer is taxed at about 6.5 cents per gallon. For reference, the World’s Largest Six Pack in La Crosse, which is 688,200 gallons, would generate almost $45,000 in tax revenue. Wine is taxed at 25 cents per gallon if it has an alcohol content of 14% or less.

The report did not include alcohol sales tax revenue.

The report said that the increase is unsurprising, considering rising stress and lack of leisure activities during the pandemic. Dr. Chris Eberlein from Gundersen Health System says this increase could cause personal repercussions for many.

“The real concern is: will this drive increase dependency and addiction—alcohol addiction, and in turn drive those other problems,” Eberlein said. “It causes weight gain… It can cause some hypertension. And all the alcohol use disorders as far as mental health goes.”

Gundersen has yet to see a significant increase on alcohol-related cases, but with the rise in alcohol sales, Eberlein believes it will come with time.

“This is just another increased burden on the health systems as a whole and these patients, they can be, they need a lot of resources and they need a lot of help,” he said.

As the pandemic continues, he has suggestions for those who believe they may need help.

“Working with your provider, realizing when your drinking starts to become more of a problem and seeking help early, I think that is the most important part of this,” Eberlein said.

He also suggests that, if you feel you may have a problem but aren’t sure if you need help, to talk to your friends.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.