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April 27, 2000 01:35pm
Higher Beer Prices Could Cut Spread of Gonorrhea
Source: Reuters

(ATLANTA, GA) - Raising the price of beer could reduce the incidence of gonorrhea, a leading sexually transmitted disease, U.S. federal health officials said on Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that raising the state tax on a six pack of beer by 20 cents could reduce the nation's gonorrhea rates by almost nine percent.

Researchers looked at gonorrhea rates between 1981 and 1995 among teenagers and young adults in states that increased the legal drinking age or increased the state beer tax.

``Of the 36 beer tax increases that we reviewed, gonorrhea rates declined among teens aged 15 to 19 in 24 instances. Among young adults aged 20 to 24, they declined in 26 instances,'' said Dr. Kathleen Irwin of the CDC's Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Prevention.

``Gonorrhea rates among teens dropped in the states that increased their legal drinking age,'' said Irwin, although it had less of an effect.

Other studies have linked alcohol consumption by young people to risky sexual behavior, such as having unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners, the CDC said.

``Drinking can influence a person's judgement. For example, when drinking they may be more likely to have sex, to have sex without a condom, to have multiple sex partners, or to have sex with high-risk partners,'' Irwin said.

Irwin said more than three million teenagers are infected with sexually transmitted diseases every year, increasing their risks for cervical cancer and infertility. Sexually transmitted diseases also increase transmission of the virus that causes AIDS, and makes people more vulnerable to the virus.

Gonorrhea is the nation's second most common sexually transmitted disease, behind chlamydia. The CDC said 324,901 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 1997. People under 24 have the highest rates of the disease.

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