Thursday, May 29, 2008

The alcopop tax strikes trouble

I had no idea when I wrote Alcopops and mixed drinks - The Head strikes (1 May 2008, the day that the press reported the Government's increase in taxes on pre-mixed drinks) just how quickly my forecast on outcomes would prove to be correct.

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a survey by the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia suggested sales of alcopops had dropped by 38 per cent, while sales of 700ml bottles of spirits had increased by 21 per cent. A spokesman suggested that when other forms of alcohol such as beer and wine were taken into account, total consumption of alcohol might actually have increased

The Council is hardly an impartial body. The axes it has to grind would fell Tasmania's forests.

I tried to check details on its web site, but without success. Given this, I did as I so often do, checked elsewhere. According to a local bottle shop, Woolworth's sales of pre-mixed drinks have dropped by 30 per cent. Sales of spirits have gone up, although numbers were not available.

So we can say that the outcome of this measure has been much as expected. Now we can expect the next round, pressure for an increase in overall taxes on alcohol led by the growing proliferation of special interest bodies in the not-for-profit sector and the official advisory bodies, each of which has their own version of our interests at heart.

I see that Health Minister Nicola Roxon's view is: It's great to see the drop in vodka-based spirits, which we know are targeted at young women.

Ms Roxon's view is actually sexist. She appears to believe that young women need more protection than young men, when all the data appears to suggest that it is young men (as it always has been) who drink the most.


Koren said...

Much as I'd like to believe the tax will work, it won't. Making grog more expensive doesn't dissuade people from drinking it - rather they just look for other options.

We need to invest in long-term solutions. I'm not sure what they would be exactly, but it couldn't hurt to look to overseas. In Europe, where alcohol is a part of life from a very early age, teenagers don't have the same problem. Then there's the other extreme of raising the drinking age, like in the US. I don't know if either would work here, but adding a tax sure isn't going to fix it. Not when you can buy 700mls of straight vodka.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good evening, BC. One of my problems in all this is that I do not know what problem we are actually addressing.

Binge drinking, for example,has always had a very particular meaning in Australia at least. Some of those who talk about binge drinking do not mean this at all. They seem to define binge drinking as anyone who drinks over a certain minimum amount on a regular basis. This is not binge drinking per se.

If we do not define the problem, we cannot solve it.