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Taxing Alco-Pops Not The Answer

Taxing Alco-Pops Not The Answer
16 August 2004

Increasing tax on flavoured alcohol beverages, commonly known as alcopops is unlikely to reduce alcohol-related harm among young people says the Alcohol Advisory Council.

Its comments were made at today’s Youth Parliament Select Committee hearing where Youth MPs heard submissions on whether alcopops should be taxed higher than other alcohol beverages to reduce teenage drinking.

Deputy Chief Executive of ALAC, Paula Snowden told Committee members that its preference was for a flat tax on all alcohol that would be directly linked to alcohol content, and it did not support targeting a specific class of products just because it was deemed problematic.

“We need to get away from thinking there’s good and bad alcohol and start looking at alcohol content,” Ms Snowden said. “It’s the amount of pure alcohol or ethanol in a product that is at the heart of the issue.

“Alcopops generally have similar alcohol content to beer, and beer is generally the drink of preference for young people anyway. We also know young people are often seeking the best bang for buck with their alcohol purchase decisions and if alcopops were out of reach due to pricing, you can guarantee it would be something else taking their place.

“Young New Zealanders, and adult New Zealanders for that matter, have told us they drink to relax, socialise and often, to become intoxicated, so if the latter is the main driver, they’re going to be looking for the product with the alcohol content.

“Contrary to what many might think, pricing has internationally proved to be an effective tool to reduce harm,” Ms Snowden said. “It makes sense to tax products according to alcohol content as it naturally steers people towards consuming lower alcohol products. By doing this, we would be taking a harm-related approach to rather than a revenue-related one.”

She also told the Select Committee that to achieve real change, adult behaviour around supply to young people needed to change as well as aiming for a shift in the heavy drinking culture New Zealanders seemed happy to just accept.


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