Thursday, May 29, 2008
Alcopop debacle balloons
The recent tax on alcopops, like most attempts to regulate against human nature, seems to be doing little but creating a "balloon effect".
Sales of alcoholic candy have reportedly dropped 38% since the tax while sales of hard spirits have risen 21%. Squeeze the balloon in one place and it expands in another. But wait, there's more.
I regularly find empty Passion Pop bottles literally on my doorstep, left there by Kings Cross revellers tanking up in the back streets to avoid horrendous cocktail prices in the club scene.
So I checked with my local bottle shop. Their sales of Passion Pop have increased about TENFOLD, driven partly by backpackers.
The joke is that Passion Pop has an alcohol content of 9.5% and costs $5 per 750ml bottle while many of the pre-mixed drinks have only a 5% content. Doh!
The Temperance Union never thought of that, as they seem even further removed from reality than the drunkards they are trying to control.
Now Police Commissioner Scipione is calling for drinks to be taxed by alcohol content, on the face of it a bit more logical than the results of the previous moral panic.
Trouble is, the table wines consumed most evenings in moderation by civilised middle class upright responsible citizens (like myself!) have an alcohol content of 11–13.5% and would become a lot more expensive. The chardonnay set will scream blue murder at yet another tax on top of crushing fuel prices and interest rates. Our wine industry would also suffer.
The policy would clearly target the wrong people.
More sensible might be a tax on sugar content in all drinks including the slabs of Coke I regularly see walking out of the supermarket. That might reduce rampant dental problems as well.
But then, what about artificial sweeteners? It's a maze.
Even if they did manage to tax us all into sobriety, the balloon effect would continue. I have fond memories from back in my hippie days of a bunch of friends back in the mountains distilling bottles of "rocket fuel" which they sold for a tax-free $10 to friends.
Then there is the "balloon effect" into drugs (which are entirely unregulated and untaxed), or as one TV commentator said, as a last resort people will just go out to their front lawn and spin around until dizzy, risking a skewering on the garden tap.
This is why prohibition – or even over-regulation – simply creates a balloon that just won't pop. You can take metaphors only so far.
Posted by The Editor at 9:52 am