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Using taxes to curb drinking: A report card on the Australian government's alcopops tax


Christopher M. Doran PhD, Associate Professor, Erol Digiusto PhD, Senior Research Fellow. Dr Erol Digiusto, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 0405 481122; Fax: +61 (02) 9221 6280; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims.In 2008, the Australian government introduced an ‘alcopops tax’ on spirit-based ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages to reduce alcohol consumption and particularly binge drinking by young people.

Design and Methods.Data regarding sales of alcoholic beverages in Australia from 2004 to 2009 were used to examine the possible effects of the alcopops tax. In addition, population data were used to calculate and examine per capita consumption.

Results.Various measures of consumption of wine-based RTDs, spirits, cider, wine and beer remained fairly stable or increased annually from 2004 to 2009. Consumption of spirit-based RTDs increased annually from 2004 to 2007, but then decreased in 2008 and 2009. Per capita alcohol consumption in terms of pure alcohol increased annually from 11.52 litres in 2004 to a peak of 11.79 litres in 2007, but then dropped to 11.55 litres and 11.41 litres in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Discussion and Conclusions.Consumption of spirit-based RTDs dropped and consumption of other alcoholic beverages increased following the introduction of the tax. The increased consumption of other alcoholic beverages could be interpreted as indicating that RTD drinkers switched to purchasing spirits or wine-based RTDs or cider. However, those increases could also be interpreted as a continuation of long-term trends rather than a ‘substitution effect’. It is impossible to know how much of the changes were due to the tax, to the ‘global financial crisis’, to adaptive marketing by the alcohol industry, to the Government's national binge drinking strategy, to mass media coverage of these issues or to other factors.[Doran CM, Digiusto E. Using taxes to curb drinking: A report card on the Australian government's alcopops tax. Drug Alcohol Rev 2011;30:677–680]