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Alcohol Death Rate Rises In N.M.

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New Mexico has had the country’s highest rate of alcohol-related deaths for more than 20 years. And last year it only got worse.


More than fifteen hundred New Mexicans died from alcohol-related illnesses in 2018. That’s up six percent in a year.


Michael Landen said lawmakers aren’t helping the situation. He’s an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

“Our policies are probably going in the wrong direction in that we’re making alcohol more available instead of less available,” Landen said.

Things like raising alcohol taxes discourage people from buying alcohol. Landen says New Mexico used to be neck-in-neck with Alaska for the worst alcohol death rate in the country. Then that state passed an alcohol tax and their rate went down.

Taxation and limiting when folks can buy alcohol aren’t popular ideas among local lawmakers. During this year’s legislative session, they lowered alcohol taxes for some local producers and expanded vending hours.


Support for KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and from KUNM listeners like you.

May joined KUNM's Public Health New Mexico team in early 2018. That same year, she established the New Mexico chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and received a fellowship from the Association of Health Care Journalists. She join Colorado Public Radio in late 2019.
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