THE success of the alcopops tax in cutting teen drinking could be used as a model to introduce a minimum price on all alcoholic beverages, drug and alcohol experts suggest.
A study of the effects of the three-year-old alcopops tax by an alliance of representatives from the Alcohol Advisory Group, National Drug Research Council and academics has found teenagers are drinking less as a result.
They used the findings to ramp up calls for the federal government to set a minimum price for all alcoholic drinks, arguing that teenagers are not the only ones indulging in excess drinking.
“If a pricing strategy is to be used to reduce the hazardous consumption and harm – and it is clear that price is the most effective and cost-effective measure we can use – a comprehensive approach is preferable,” the groups wrote in an article published by the Medical Journal of Australia.
“It should cover all products and aim to reduce the ability of industry to promote cheaper alternatives.
“This should include a comprehensive graduated volumetric taxation system that covers all types of alcoholic beverages and is informed by the relationship between consumption of these products and consequent harm.
“Setting a minimum price per standard drink would curtail the alcohol industry’s ability to discount prices to increase sales and to shift consumers to cheaper alternatives.”
Research by the groups found that the alcopops tax, introduced in 2008, pushed the sale of the popular drinks down by more than 30 per cent in a year.
While sales of other spirits rose in the same period, the increase accounted for less than half the fall in alcopop sales.
The groups also pointed to the 2008 alcohol and drug survey of teenagers which showed that while the tax had not changed their preference for alcopops, the number of teen drinkers fell 27 per cent in three years.
“Is the alcopops tax working? To the extent possible, probably yes in that (alcopops) are not the only beverage of concern and young drinkers and teenagers are not the only Australians being harmed by drinking,” they wrote.
“The government acted wisely to introduce the alcopops tax but it was by no means enough.
“In the face of thousands of deaths and over $15 billion in social and economic costs each year, our political leaders need to do more to address the unacceptable harm that alcohol continues to cause our society.”
The government has been facing growing calls to lift the price of alcohol.
The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, an alliance of 22 health and medical groups, earlier this month met MPs and senators to lobby for alcohol price reform and for the issue to be discussed at the government’s October tax summit.
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