Higher taxes needed to curb binge-drinking: health group

We’re losing the war on alcoholism and binge drinking and changing the tax system to bump up prices on stronger varieties is the only way to start to improve it, according to health groups.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) wants the government to implement changes to the way alcohol is taxed, which it says should focus more on the strength of the alcohol, to alter binge drinking.

The group, which is made up of VicHealth, the Cancer Council and various drug and alcohol representative associations wants the price of casks of wine and cider to be bumped up, as many turn away from the price-inflated ‘alcopops’ towards the cheap boxed varieties.

Their proposed volumetric tax would essentially eradicate the wine equalisation tax, which is levied at 29 per cent of the wholesale wine price and instead calculate the price based on alcohol content.

"In a climate where we are seeing a sharp increase in consumption of cider and cheap wine, particularly by high-risk drinkers, we need to ensure that the price of alcohol is related to alcohol content," APC legal policy adviser Sondra Davoren said in a statement.

Most ciders are taxed under the same system as wine, which equates to about 7 cents less per glass then standard full strength draught beer, despite the similar alcohol content.

Alcopops are taxed at about 95 cents per standard drink, which is leading consumers to turn away from the premixed varieties, with a drop of about seven million drinks per week since 2008.

"Yet because of the anomaly in the tax system that allows traditional ciders to be taxed like wine, these products are increasingly filling the gap left by alcopops," Davoren said.

"Cider consumption increased 18 per cent in the year following the introduction of the alcopops tax and continues to rise."

The UK has a minimum floor price for alcohol which raises the price of high-stength, high-volume drinks which have been proven to be connected with alcohol-related crime and harm.

The APC is now calling on the Australian government to introduce a similar scheme.

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