24/7 Wall St. has analyzed the prevalence of the major vices by state. These include gambling, drinking, use of tobacco, drugs, and the number of people who subscribe to pornographic websites.
This is the first of a two-part series on the subject. This first part of our analysis addresses the prevalence of these vices. The second part will discuss in greater detail the financial risks and rewards these states are exposed to as a result of vice.
The results of our analysis show which states are at greatest risk for costs associated with vice and which states are likely to benefit from them. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that accidents caused by drunk driving cost the American public $50 billion a year. This only begins to capture the size of the expenses that stem from drinking. In order to pay for these realized costs, however, states collect money on the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits.The distilled spirits tax is as much as $12.80 per gallon.
There is a similar relationship in the case of tobacco. Smoking causes cancer and heart disease, but taxes on cigarettes are a relatively large part of the receipts base of most states. Gambling is taxed in most venues other than those owned by Native American tribes. Nevada would not have much of a state budget if this were not true.
Data used for the 24/7 Wall St analysis came from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, American Gaming Association, and a Harvard Business School professor’s analysis of pornography use.
Some of the definitions in this analysis are technical, and may be confusing for those unfamiliar with them. For instance, whether a citizen is defined as a heavy drinker depends on their gender. In the case of men, it is those who report an average consumption of more than two drinks each day. In the case of women, the minimum is an average of more than one. These numbers are probably understated, as many do not like to admit to being problem drinkers. Binge drinkers are either men who on at least two nights in the last 30 day have consumed five of more drinks, or women who have consumed at least four. Compared to heavy drinking, binge drinking is much more common, done by as many as 15% of the adults in some states. Regarding gambling, this analysis does not take into account lottery collections at the state level or other forms of gambling such as off track betting.
24/7 Wall St. took the prevalence of five major vices in the fifty states. These were then averaged and weighted evenly in order select the states with the highest and lowest prevalence of vice.