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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 07:38 GMT
Tories plan 'alcopops' tax hike
Man drinking a pint of beer
Will tax changes curb excesses?
The Conservatives say they will raise tax on super-strength beer, cider and alcopops to tackle binge drinking if they win the next general election.

Tax on alcopops would be trebled, but money raised would be used to reduce tax on low-strength beer and cider.

The Tories' want to hit the drinks they believe fuel yobbish behaviour, without penalising "sensible" drinkers.

A spokeswoman for the chancellor said there was no provision in European law for a separate tax on alcopops.

You can tackle the binge drinks without having an overall increase in the tax on alcohol
George Osborne

She added that their sales were going down.

Duty on spirits has been frozen since 1998 and Chancellor Alistair Darling is expected to raise alcohol taxes in next week's Budget.

'Problem drinks'

BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti said the Conservatives wanted to put pressure on ahead of the Budget by showing how they would tackle under-age and binge-drinking through the tax system.

Taxes on alcopops

The Conservatives say they would look to treble duty on alcopops - a mixture of spirits and fruit juice or fizzy drinks - and significantly raise it on strong beer and cider.

In a package of proposals to be published later, the Conservatives will say Labour's approach to alcohol taxation has failed and "problem drinks" have become more affordable.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC: "These drinks are targeted primarily at young women. They disguise the taste of alcohol by putting very sweet mixtures in so they taste like lemonade.

"Let's make the price of that very difficult for people and then use all the money to cut the taxes on the low alcohol products.

"They've done this kind of thing in Germany and Australia and it has had dramatic effects."

Under the party's proposals, a 2 can of super-strength beer would rise in price to 2.38, while a 1.25 litre of strong cider would rise to 1.66.

Alcopops costing around 1.25 a bottle would cost 1.79 under the Conservatives' plans.

The Conservatives say wines, spirits and 90% of beer and cider - including popular brands like Carling, John Smiths, Guinness, Stella Artois, Strongbow and Magners - would not be affected.

Meanwhile cider of less than 3% alcohol by volume (ABV) would see duty halved and beer below 2.5% would see "significant" reductions, cutting the price of a pint by up to 8p.

'Be brave'

But figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats earlier show that every year since 2000 around 100 children aged under eight have been admitted to hospital for alcohol-related problems.

The Lib Dems say the 10-year freeze on duty on spirits should end and it should go up with in line with inflation since 1997 - adding about an extra 1.50 per bottle.

Dan Shenker, of Alcohol Concern, told the BBC the government had to persuade people not to drink excessively and "be brave" in taking steps to ensure alcohol did not become too cheap.

In February the British Medical Association said pricing and promotion of drinks was fuelling an "alcohol epidemic".

And last year, the Health Alcohol Alliance campaign group called for tax on alcohol to be increased.

Initial findings from a government review of "evidence on the relationship between alcohol, price, promotion and harm" are expected in the summer.

On Tuesday the government announced its measures for dealing with binge drinking - including a "two-strikes-and-you're-out" policy for off-licences caught selling drink to under-18s.

Your comments:

I am a student in Sheffield currently and drinks are already getting too expensive, especially with pubs and clubs charging a large amount for entrance fees. I don't believe it makes sense raising taxes on alcopops, as people will always drink irresponsibly, and they will drink something else instead. Make buying drinks much more difficult, such as ID is mandatory, and keep it cheap for students, we cant afford the tuition fees so we need cheap booze to relax!
Charlie Colman, Sheffield, UK

Seems like the quickest way to encourage pre-drinking to me.
Michael Knight, Manchester

All this is doing is raising the prices of drinks. This disadvantages those of us who simply wish to enjoy a night out drinking beer which has taste (mainly foreign beer as well as ales and bitters). Really, all it means for binge drinking is that those who have the money to drink 10-12 cans of strong lager a day have to reduce that amount to say 8-10. That's really not a big difference when you think about it. It's not going to reduce binge drinking.
Phil, UK

What?????? I thought this country couldn't get any worse with all these taxes! If were supposed to be in Europe let's have some European priced taxes on alcohol! If there's a problem with kids binge drinking just raise the drinking age to 21! It ain't rocket science!
Ray, Mold, Cymru

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