These drinks are sweet and taste less alcoholic than they are and have therefore been a drink of choice for young people, women in particular, and the move is designed to help arrest the increase in dangerous drinking among teens and young adults.
On first thoughts, this seems to me like a sensible move:
- It closes a loophole where spirits were taxed at a substantially lower rate if they were mixed with soft drinks and put in a can or bottle. So just on a tax efficiency basis it seems justified.
- This is quite a targeted tax increase in that it focuses on drinks that I understand are largely consumed by young people who - given their lower incomes - are more likely to respond to a price hike.
The alcohol industry has claimed that young drinkers will just switch to beer or spirits. Some will, but I think that switch will be limited by two factors:
- Spirits are taxed at the higher rate too.
- Spirits and beer are not complete substitutes for pre-mixed drinks. From my experience, pre-mixed drinks tastse like soft drinks and are extremely easy to drink quickly. Spirits and beer just aren't the same.
I'll try and find some figures to assess my initial thoughts. What do you think of the move?