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Alcohol taxation and teenage drinking

A substantial rise in drinking by young people in Australia is being associated with the rise in alcoholic drinks that taste like soft drinks and with tax changes that have made these drinks cheaper. In the year 2001–02, the number of people aged between 12 and 17 who were treated for misuse of alcohol jumped 38% (Alcohol and Drug Information Systems data). One of the reasons for this growth is surely that there are now scores of new drinks tailored to teenage tastes, with the alcohol masked by sweet flavourings familiar to the teenage palate—particularly soft drinks and fruit flavours. These are the drinks commonly referred to as alcopops. The other big change is that these drinks have become much cheaper as the price of traditional adult alcoholic drinks has been rising. This is the result of tax changes that greatly favour these ready-to-drink spirit mixes and sales of these alcopops and other ready- to-drink cans and bottles have doubled. The lower prices and the marketing of these products has made them the drink of choice for the under 18s. The growth in youth drinking is not focused on traditional wine and beer consumption. An Australian Drug Foundation survey revealed that 70% of girls and boys aged 12–17 drank alcohol. Asked to name the last alcoholic drink they had consumed, almost half (46%) named a pre-mixed drink. Another 33% nominated spirits, while only 14% said beer, and 8% said wine (from The Age (Melbourne) February 2003; contributed by Ian Scott).