Ständerat, 19.6.2003

"Alcopops" price hike aims to protect teens

The price of designer drinks is set to rise in Switzerland as part of efforts to prevent young people from becoming hooked on alcohol.

On Thursday, the Senate agreed to a government proposal to quadruple the tax on so-called "alcopops". The issue still needs the approval of the House of Representatives.

Health officials argue that the beverages - a blend of spirits with soft drinks or fruit juice - are too appealing to young people, many of whom are drinking to excess.

Earlier this year the government said it wanted to raise the current tax of 45 centimes for a 275ml bottle of alcopops to SFr1.80, in a bid to curb drinking by youngsters.

"Youngsters should not get used to drinking alcohol," said Eugen David of the Christian Democratic Party.
A survey conducted in February this year showed that the consumption of spirits among young people has risen significantly in Switzerland in the past two years.

Sharp increase

The study also suggested that drinking patterns were influenced by the price of alcohol and that people were buying more spirits following the generous tax cuts on strong liquors two years ago. The trendy sweet drinks containing spirits made their debut in Switzerland in 2000, when around two million bottles were sold.

The figure skyrocketed to 28 million in 2001 and last year about 40 million bottles of alcopops were sold in Switzerland. However, critics say that a tax hike is not enough to cut the consumption of alcopops among youngsters and are calling on the government to do more to raise awareness.

Prevention campaign

"A tax increase is not enough. The government needs to step up its campaign to raise awareness, of the effects of alcohol," said Helen Leumann of the Radical Party. The government recently launched a campaign aimed at cutting alcohol consumption among teenagers. It plans to show a series of advertisements in cinemas urging youngsters to resist peer pressure to get drunk. Leumann also suggested stepping up controls on the sale of alcohol to underage drinkers.

Last year, the German-language "TagesAnzeiger"newspaper published a report that showed that current legislation had little impact. In one test, 392 children were sent out to buy alcohol in and around Zurich and at least half of those aged 13 and 14 succeeded, while among the 15-year-olds almost two-thirds were sold alcohol. swissinfo with agencies

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