Alcopops tax finally passes

It’s unlikely you missed it, but this week saw thr Senate pass the legislation related to raising taxes on pre-mixed alcoholic beverages, commonly called ‘alcopops’ (I bet alcohol industry marketing people still lose sleep over what a double-edged sword that term has become). It’s hard to disagree with ADCA’s viewpoint :

Alcopop Tax – The first step to reforming harmful drinking

The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) congratulates the Senate for passing the alcopop taxation legislation, but is calling for taxation reform to go even further.

“This issue has been delayed too long. There is no doubt that targeting these pre-mixed high-alcohol sweetened drinks is an important part of addressing issues of national binge drinking, ” ADCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr David Templeman, said today.

“We appreciate the Rudd Government continuing to fight for this tax, given the evidence from the Australian Taxation Office showed since the new tax rate for Ready-To-Drink spirits (alcopops) has been in effect, total spirits consumed decreased by 8 per cent.” he added.

ADCA believes that the tax will discourage underage drinking and delay the onset of drinking by some young people. This is imperative given the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed more than 20% of 14-19 year olds consume alcohol on a weekly basis and the risk of accidents, injuries, violence and self-harm are high among drinkers aged under 18.

“One of the recently revised alcohol guidelines specifically targets children and young people under 18 years of age – advising that NOT drinking alcohol is the safest option. We know that these alcopops are particularly attractive to young people, and so raising the tax level is part of addressing that problem,” he added.
Such a move also fits with the announcement in October 2008 by the National Preventative Health Taskforce Paper Australia: The Healthiest Country by 2020 setting a target to reduce the prevalence of harmful drinking for all Australians by 30%.

“The annual cost to the Australian community from harmful drinking is estimated to be almost $15.3 billion, and we have recognised there is a national health issue at stake here,” Mr Templeman said. “We must be prepared to legislate in order to create healthier communities and to give our young people every incentive not to get involved in harmful drinking patterns.”

ADCA as the national peak non-government (NGO) body representing the AOD sector, will continue to strive to engage with Government to deliver the National Binge Drinking Strategy and Preventative Health Taskforce priorities aimed at creating a healthier Australia. This will require significant investment in prevention and treatment.

“ADCA looks forward to seeing additional Government funding directed to short and long-term prevention measures in order to significantly reduce alcohol-related harm. This includes management of responsible drinking, product branding, outlet density, marketing and advertising, opening hours, alcohol awareness projects for communities, and most importantly, investment in standardised and consistent data collection to plan for the future.”

Mr Templeman said that statistical data supplied by the alcohol industry must be consistent across all States/ Territories. Accurate data collection had now been confirmed by the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs as a crucial element to properly understand and address alcohol-related harm.

The point raised over data collection is incredibly valid – the only excuse left for inferior data collection is a lack of will and funding across the government and non-government sectors to tackle the issue.