Olly Wehring

Lobby groups threaten taxing future

By: Olly Wehring - 21 September 2009 12:20

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Two issues last week show quite clearly the pressure being exerted on our industry outside of the economic downturn.

In the US, a health commissioner led the call for the introduction of heavier taxes on soft drinks which are high in sugar, as a way of combating the obesity epidemic. Taxes on CSDs in the majority of the US states are currently too low to curb consumption, said New York City health commissioner Dr Thomas Farley.

The call for higher taxes is a well-worn path and one that most maintain is an ineffective approach to an issue. The hike in cigarette prices on mainland Europe in recent years is a strong example of this failed strategy. Most clearly, however, such calls from experts indicate the failure of our own industry to engage with such figures.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the issue of minimum pricing for alcohol as a means of curbing excessive consumption took a positive – albeit predictable – twist, when the UK's Office of Fair Trading voiced its opposition to the matter.

The legalities of imposing minimum pricing have always made the introduction of such measures impractical. However, the “solution's” ability to attract headlines will keep it at the forefront of the debate on alcohol abuse as politicians and lobby groups look to maintain the pressure for calls for legislation to curb drinking.

Again, it is vital that our industry continues to take a positive and proactive role in this debate and avoids being dragged into an ugly war of words. Education of consumers and legislators remains key.

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