New push for volumetric alcohol tax

Posted by Isobel Drake on 16th June 2009

A minimum price per standard drink should be introduced as part of an overhaul of alcohol taxes, according to an editorial published in The Medical Journal of Australia.

Dr Steven Skov, writing on behalf of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Alcohol Advisory Group, also argues the alcopops tax has helped to reduce overall alcohol consumption in the community and should be reintroduced.

“Reintroducing the alcopops tax is important but more comprehensive reform of alcohol taxation and other measures are … needed to reduce alcohol related harm,” Dr Skov suggested. “Using the tax system to influence pricing is by far the most effective and cost-effective single intervention to reduce the amount of alcohol that is drunk and the harm it causes.”

Twenty-one public health groups have joined the push – forming the National Coalition for Action on Alcohol Harm. This group is also seeking stricter advertising regulations including a ban on sports sponsorship.

Dr Skov welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to reintroduce the alcopops tax legislation in the current sitting of Parliament.

“The tax should be reintroduced because there is evidence it helped reduce overall alcohol consumption,” he said. “The $400 million in revenue raised from the alcopops tax before it was blocked in the Senate should be directed to independent public health agencies to develop evidence-informed interventions that aim to reduce consumption and consequent harms.”

The Alcopops Bill will be back before the Senate next week and is expected to be passed on this occasion as the Liberal Party indicates support for the legislation.

Dr Skov believes more regulation is needed beyond the alcopops tax, however.

“Beverages should be taxed based on their alcohol content (volumetric taxation), a minimum price per standard drink should be established and additional taxation should be based on evidence of harm associated with particular beverage types,” he argued. “A proportion of alcohol-related tax revenues should be directed towards prevention and treatment of alcohol-related problems.”

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.