Commentary: 'Alcopop" makers trying to pull a fast one

This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.

Alcohol industry execs must be celebrating, perhaps clinking bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice. That's because they pulled a fast one on California tax officials, the Legislature, the governor and the public.

By changing the way they formulate their flavored malt beverages (called "alcopops," they're soda-pop-tasting alcohol drinks popular with teenagers), the industry has been able to avoid a substantial tax increase imposed last year by the State Board of Equalization. It also escaped tough new labeling rules passed by the Legislature.

Distilled spirits, like bourbon and Scotch, are taxed at a rate of $3.30 a gallon; wine and beer are taxed at 20 cents a gallon. Flavored malt beverages had been taxed at the lower rate because they contained about the same amount of alcohol as beer.

But they also contain a trace amount of distilled spirits often found in the flavoring, so the Board of Equalization decided – after lobbying by anti-teen-drinking groups – that "alcopops" should be assessed the higher rate.

A higher tax would make them less affordable to young consumers and help reduce the incidence of drunken driving and binge drinking.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.

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