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Bill bursts bubble for unscrupulous booze barons

Bill bursts bubble for unscrupulous booze barons

The Green Party welcomes the crackdown on unscrupulous booze merchants exploiting the youth market, in a Bill expected to be passed under extraordinary urgency tonight.

"The Customs and Excise (Alcoholic Beverages) Amendment Bill will take away the financial fizz for booze barons, who have been deviously taking advantage of young people by selling maximum booze for a minimum price," Green Co-Leader Rod Donald said tonight.

The Bill increases the excise duty on alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of between 14 and 23 per cent to the same level as full-strength spirits. Creating a more realistic price should achieve the aim of reducing the consumption of light spirits by young people in particular.

"The Greens welcome this excellent first step towards reducing youth alcohol abuse and addiction. But we would like to see the Government tackle all the ways in which booze barons are slipping our young people cheap booze," Mr Donald said.

"These include the insidious pre-mixed alcoholic drinks known as 'Ready to Drink' (RTDs) and the fruit-flavoured 'alcopops' - all of which have tremendous appeal to the youth market."

The Bill brings an end to the devious practice whereby some alcohol companies have been watering down spirits like vodka and gin so they fall within the 23 per cent alcohol content range - thereby qualifying for a lower duty and hence able to be sold at a lower price.

"We are pleased to see an end to this very cheap, effective but unethical way of peddling vast quantities of booze - more than 1.2 million bottles a year - to teenagers," Mr Donald said.

"Companies have not only been watering down alcohol and attempting to pass it off as the real thing for a cheap price; but also - and more seriously - targeting vulnerable young people for profit," Mr Donald said.

Under the Bill, which takes effect from midnight tonight (Tuesday night), liquor with an alcohol content of between 14 and 23 per cent will be taxed at the same higher rate as liquor with an alcohol content of 23-plus per cent.

"The Green Party would like to see the expected extra $14 million a year in revenue that this change will bring go towards community-based treatment services for alcohol addiction, and youth groups to provide peer education on responsible use of alcohol," Mr Donald said.

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