Germany imposed a specific tax on alcopops in 2004 nearly doubling retail prices of the drinks in an effort to reduce their popularity among under-age drinkers.
Using data from the European School Survey Project before and after the introduction of the tax, scientists at the Institut für Therapieforschung (IFT) in Germany sought to assess how young people reacted to it.
Writing in the journal Addiction, the scientists, led by Stefanie Muller, said their research supported previously well-established evidence that the tax did clearly worked to reduce the popularity of alcopops among 12 to 17 year-olds.
Because price is an important factor in the buying decisions of adolescents, the measure proved to be effective for that age group. But the IFT scientists questioned whether it really was as effective as some previous reports have suggested.
Consumption and preferences
Using statistical techniques including multiple regression analysis and multinomial logistic regression, they assessed changes in alcohol consumption and preferences.
According to this analysis, consumption of spirits increased after the alcopops tax was introduced while preferences shifted from alcopops to beer and spirits.
The scientists said their findings indicate that the tax was not an absolute success. Its positive impact on alcopop drinking among adolescents was mitigated by an increase in consumption of other drinks, including some such as spirits that may be associated with riskier consumption patterns.
They concluded by calling for more holistic alcohol policies that do not just single out one type of drink. “Effective alcohol policies to prevent alcohol related problems among adolescents should focus upon the reduction of total alcohol consumption instead of regulating singular beverages.”
Changes in alcohol consumption and beverage preference among adolescents after the introduction of the alcopops tax in Germany
Authors: Stefanie Müller, Daniela Piontek, Alexander Pabst, Sebastian E. Baumeister & Ludwig Kraus