US alcopop tax not to UK tastes, says expert

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage

New Californian legislation that classes flavoured malt beverage
'alcopops' as higher tax band spirit products is unlikely to be
adopted in the UK or other EU markets, according to a leading
alcohol charity.

A spokesperson for the UK-based Alcohol Concern told BeverageDaily.com that the debate over imposing similar measurements in the UK, and possibly throughout the EU, has developed beyond focusing on a single type of drink. The tax ​ The new Californian tax policy was unveiled yesterday to help combat the irresponsible drinking of malted products such as flavoured beers, and will be implemented by 1 October this year, according to officials. The measure, which was approved by the State Board of Equalization's (BOE) Office of Administrative Law, has unsurprisingly drawn scorn from manufacturers in the US, who now face a 1,650 per cent increase in tax on the products. According to the BOE, flavoured beer will now face a $3.30 per gallon tax, from a rate of $0.20 per gallon previously. BOE chairwoman Judy Chu said that the new classification for the beverages would be a major step in attempts to cut high levels of underage drinking among minors in the state. "It will send a signal to youth that 'alcopops' are hard liquor - because these drinks will now have costs that are similar to hard liquor,"​ she stated. "It will make it harder for young people to access 'alcopops', and that can only be helpful in reducing underage drinking."Non-US view ​ While not in favour of the latest Californian proposals to specifically persecute 'alcopops', Alcohol Concern said that it did believe that there were benefits to be had in targeting consumers' wallets in a bid to reduce irresponsible drinking. "There is definitely a relationship between alcohol pricing and heavy drinking,"​ the spokesperson said. "However, this must be adopted beyond alcopops to the most popular drinks among young people."​ Alcohol Concern added that the mid '90s popularity of 'alcopops', flavoured beer or fruit-based alcoholic drinks, had created an inaccurate stereotype that they are the only products being consumed by young and underage drinkers. According to the spokesperson, official research shows that beer, spirits, cider and wines are all popular with young people. He added that these products were also often discounted by major retailers and should all be focused on in regards to sales costs. "A minimum pricing scheme for all alcoholic products should therefore be adopted,"​ the spokesperson said. Industry price concerns ​The Portman group, an industry led UK-based social responsibility organisation, told BeverageDaily.com that it believes the availability of cheaper alcoholic products was not necessarily a key contributor to irresponsible drinking. "Alcohol bought in supermarkets can be drunk at home, in moderation and over time,"​ said Michael Thompson, head of communications for the Portman Group. "TheUKGovernment has commissioned an independent review of the link between price, promotions, including advertising, and harm, which is due to report in the autumn." ​ Thompson added that should a link be found, then the Portman Group would look to make sure it was involved in any discussions over future action.

Related topics: Markets, Alcohol Regulation

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