Friday, March 20, 2009

What is wrong with Alcopops?

Alcopops, to our overseas visitors are basiaclly soft drink with alcohol added and marketing to a youth market. Varieties such as Lemon Ruski have popped up over the years, and it's led to a sharp increase of young people binge drinking. Now, Australia's always been fond of a couple of quiet ones but the level of over-excessive drinking has gotten out of hand.

The theory is that young people are atracted to these alcopops because they can't stand the taste of regular alcohol, so they choose to have alcohol with a whole pile of sugar to cover up the taste (because that's being an adult!). So, the federal government finally caught onto the trend and introduced a propsed tax on the sale of alcopops in Australia.

Not only would it curve binge drinking, the government argued, it would also be a nice little fundraiser. Now, instead of being a country run on the sheep's back we would be run on the pissed teenager's back.

Now, the sale of alcopops have suffered a hit but to make up for it teenagers are getting savvy and mixing their own drinks before they go out. They say that they save money by doing it, and this would combat any price hike the government may or may not introduce. Alcopops though, aren't the only thing driving binge drinking in this country.

The fact is, that Australia has had a drinking culture for as long as anyone could remember, with mainstream alcohol companies able to advertise during sports broadcasts to tie in the culture of sport with the culture of drinking, and this is backed up by seeing their favourite players intoxicated on the streets, groping sponsor's daughters and what have you.

It's been said that if the government outlawed all drugs and alcohol, Australians would spin around on their lawn until they couldn't stand. The question is though, how do you deal with the problem?

Senator Steve Fielding of the Family First Party yesterday had the swing vote when the alcopops tax bill made its way to the senate, and he chose to vote it down, wanting more to be done about binge drinking than taxing alcopops.

He said that any legislation had to be a comprehensive plan to get to the root causes of the problem, and would not vote for revenue-raising band-aid solution legislation. Of course, several people have criticised him for blocking the move, while others have lauded his efforts.

In my own personal opinion, I don't think putting a tax on alcopops would dramatically decrease the level of teenage drunkedness in the country but it's a start. I think the legislation should have gotten through, but Fielding has a point in his opposition to sport-related alcohol advertising.

It's a ridiculous loophole which allows alcohol compaies to advertise their product during the day time, but only in conjunction with a sports broadcast. It comes down to the dollars the companies give sports organisations in the country through sponsorship and spokesman deals. So the uniforms of the players may have alcohol logos on them, and signage at the stadiums will display the logo from time to time, and then the companies strike a deal with the television network carrying the game to advertise with the broadcast.

Then what you have is not just a logo, but an association with professional sport, and with pro athletes. Ridiculous as it may sound, many young people look up to these overpaid beefcakes and think that by drinking the particular product advertised, they can be just like their heroes.

If that's the case, then we're all in trouble.

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