Thursday, May 01, 2008

Alcopops and mixed drinks - The Head strikes

Photo: Jim Beam drinkers, Brisbane Courier Mail

While I was finishing Mr Rudd and a dreadful sense of deja vu - Managerialism and systemic failure, the world continued around me in its usual interesting way.

Mr Rudd's sudden decision, it happened in the middle of the night, to increase the excise on alcopops – alcoholic beverages marketed at teenagers – and other ready-to-drink products is one of those type of dramatic gestures we came to know and love with Mr Howard.

It seems so sensible. Tean age drinking is a problem, increase the price of those drinks most favoured by the young. And increase he did, raising the excise from $39 a litre of alcohol to $67, leading to a sudden sharp increase in the price of all types of pre-mixed drinks sold in bottleshops.

I heard the news, as I so often do, driving to work. I had no particular reaction, other than to wonder what my daughters might think. However, my attention was strongly drawn to the matter when I arrived at the local bottleshop that night to get a beer.

The proprietor was furious. He described it as one of the silliest decisions he had ever seen. Pointing to the pre-mixed drinks on the shelves, he went through the price increases that would follow. Then taking a pre-mixed Jim Beam six pack as an example, he pointed to a full bottle of Jim Beam.

Now that the price difference between the two was down to $4, young people would simply buy the full bottle and then mix it. This meant that they would actually be buying more alcohol.

My attention caught, I asked youngest (18) what she thought as soon as I got home.

She was ropeable. In her view, all the Government had done was to penalise those who liked the taste of certain of the pre-mixed drinks and who drank in moderation. Those kids who really wanted to get drunk would simply shift to Goon (cheap boxes of wine) or spirits. Passionpop - a very cheap fizzy wine - would remain the drink of choice for the very young.

To get a different view, I asked eldest (20) a little later.

Helen is the more conservative of the pair. She said that she had been in favour when she first heard the news. Drinking among the young worries her, as it does me. But she had changed her mind after talking to people at the hotel where she works part time. She now thought that it would make the problem worse.

In discussions later, the girls' collective view appeared to be that we would now see an attempt to increase the legal drinking age to 21, with prices for all forms of alcohol going up. The first would simply increase the number of under age drinkers, the second would penalise those on lower incomes.


Lexcen said...

Obviously this issue wasn't considered at the 2020 summit.

Jim Belshaw said...

Clearly a missed opportunity Lexcen!