BOSTON, April 9, 2003 – The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States testified today before the Massachusetts Senate Joint Committee on Taxation that legislation doubling the state’s excise tax on distilled spirits would deal a severe blow to the state’s struggling hospitality and tourism industry. The legislation, SB 1843, calls for a massive tax increase on distilled spirits, beer and wine products to pay for treatment for those who use illicit drugs or abuse alcohol. “Responsible consumption of distilled spirits, beer or wine is a socially acceptable part of a normal, healthy adult lifestyle,” said David E. Wojnar, Eastern Region Vice President for the Distilled Spirits Council. “To indict these responsible consumers and their pocketbooks to pay for illicit drug use and alcohol abuse is not good public policy and is not in the public interest.” During his testimony, Wojnar stated that earmarked taxes singling out a legal and responsible industry, and its responsible customers, is not sound social, economic or fiscal policy. “These earmarked taxes are not ‘abuser taxes,’ they are ‘hospitality taxes.’ The majority of consumers do not abuse alcohol or incur health and/or safety-related costs,” said Wojnar. “Raising taxes does not deter alcohol abusers, but only serves to penalize the responsible consumer and the state’s struggling hospitality industry.” Based on economic analysis, the bill would result in a $150 million decrease in total economic activity for the state and 2,300 lost jobs for Massachusetts workers, many from the state’s hospitality sector. Wojnar pointed out that since 1985, the distilled spirits industry has been burdened with two federal excise taxes, making spirits products among the highest taxed consumer products in the Commonwealth. “Responsible consumers in Massachusetts have already paid more than their fair share,” said Wojnar. “When a typical bottle of spirits is purchased in Massachusetts, approximately 50 percent of the purchase price goes to a tax. These responsible consumers should not be further penalized.” Wojnar stressed that the distilled spirits industry is committed to fighting all forms of alcohol abuse and highlighted a number of the distilled spirits industry’s programs that have been or are being used throughout Massachusetts including “Cops in Shops” and “Alcohol 101.” “As an industry, we cannot support a misguided attempt to solve a serious problem with an unfair solution,” said Wojnar. “We agree that treatment and education are part of an effective solution, and it is for these reasons we are committed to public and private partnerships that will bring the results all of us seek.” Wojnar cited as an example the “American Campus and Alcohol Conference” co-sponsored by DISCUS, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Amherst and others. Held in October 2000, the conference brought together teams of campus and community leaders from 34 universities to implement “Best Practices” to combat alcohol abuse on our nation’s campuses. Since the national conference, 17 universities including UMass Dartmouth and UMass Amherst have received matching grants from DISCUS to fund campus alcohol abuse programs and/or host regional conferences. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the national trade association representing producers and marketers of distilled spirits sold in the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., DISCUS is led by Dr. Peter H. Cressy, the former Chancellor of UMass Dartmouth.