Increasing the Tax on Alcopops

We have previously commented on the growing popularity of “alcopops” and our concern that their advertised reputation as sweet drinks masking the taste of liquor, while delivering intoxication, makes them appeal to underage drinkers.  Alcopops are usually sold in stores’ beer aisles, also making them popular among underage drinkers, who most frequently choose beer as their drink of choice.  Large-scale consumption of these drinks by young and underage drinkers fuels the binge-drinking problem in this country, and so we were happy to read that California has recently decided to regulate and tax alcopops as distilled spirits and not as beers.  The change, which will take place in October, will tax alcopops with the current liquor tax of $3.30 per gallon, up from $0.20 per gallon, the current tax on beer.

We believe that increasing the tax on alcopops will help decrease their consumption amongst underage drinkers since a higher price tag should decrease their appeal amongst consumers.  In fact, past studies have indicated that throughout history, higher taxes on alcohol have led to a decreased likelihood of heavy drinking and binge drinking.  Higher alcohol prices have also been correlated with decreased rates of underage drinking, sexually transmitted diseases, and traffic fatalities in the past…nothing wrong with that! 

Recent comments on our May 27th, 2008 post argue that using higher taxes to deter alcohol consumption is a neo-prohibitionist approach and that focus should be placed on responsible drinking and not the type of alcohol consumed.  However, we believe that alcopops are a unique case and that increasing the tax on these beverages is an appropriate strategy to combat irresponsible drinking.  Alcopops appeal to underage and young drinkers, who are most likely to binge drink, and so making them less appealing by raising their price targets irresponsible drinking within this age group.  This, coupled with the fact that studies have shown that higher prices deter alcohol abuse, suggests that increasing the tax on alcopops will be effective in reducing irresponsible binge drinking.  Of course, we hope that measures to teach responsible drinking, such as education programs on safe alcohol consumption, are adopted along with these adjustments in taxes.  With any luck, other states will begin to follow California’s lead and reconsider their tax policies for liquor in the near future.

To read more on the studies mentioned above, see Paying the Tab:  The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control, by Philip J. Cook—a very interesting read.


One Response to “Increasing the Tax on Alcopops”

  1. Martin Says:

    I’ve really wanted to support this organization and its mission. I’ve badly wanted to send money, organize under the Choose Responsibility banner, and go forward with the good things about this group. But every time I click on this blog, I read about full support of ignition interlocks or support of California’s Board of Equalization completely overstepping its authority in reference to definition of taxable goods, and I don’t know what to think. Which side is Choose Responsibility on? Are you on the side of freedom for parents and responsible 18-20 year olds? Or are you trying be a moderate between MADD and the people like me who believe in freedom?

    I would love to believe that this group would take a stand for freedom, and that means dropping your subscription to MADD/Marin/RWJF’s garbage about how alcopops should be taxed as distilled spirits and that ignition interlocks should be required for DUI convicts. As for “alcopops,” THEY AREN’T EVEN DISTILLED! They are malted. Which by definition makes them beer, not liquor. Taxing them as liquor is nothing more than abuse of taxation. And though I do concede that underage people make poor decisions with alcopops, kids who have shiny red sports cars make bad decisions with them, too. Should we tax Ford extra for the red Mustang because young, inexperienced drivers abuse their vehicles’ capabilities? As for ignition interlocks for “first time offenders”, why don’t you take a look at some of the completely absurd DUI laws, and the way the justice system and Constitution have been abused in the name of DUI. Call it a slippery slope if you wish, but MADD’s representatives have publicly stated that they would like to see every new car roll off the assembly line with an ignition interlock device. What’s it going to be, CR, freedom, or pandering to MADD? I hope its freedom, because MADD doesn’t compromise; nor do any of the other anti-alcohol zealots that pump garbage like banning/taxing alcopops and ingition interlocks.