Letter: Children hooked on alcopops

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Sir: In his otherwise very sensible letter about alcopops (21 May) Professor Graham offers the wrong solution to the problem of alcohol abuse. He states as a fact that the level of abuse is closely related to the total level of consumption. This is actually a controversial theory, which was dismissed by the Inter-Departmental Working Group that proposed the revised sensible drinking limits at the end of 1995 (Sensible Drinking, sections 6.1 and 9.4).

Professor Graham then goes on to suggest that increasing taxes in order to reduce consumption would help to reduce alcohol abuse. The evidence does not support this argument. Increasing taxes in the UK would simply lead to an increase in the smuggling of drinks from lower-taxed countries on the continent. It is already believed that cross-Channel imports account for 15 per cent of UK drinks consumption.

The European Union country with the highest alcohol taxes is Sweden, where smuggling and domestically distilled moonshine are estimated to account for anything up to 50 per cent of total consumption (Wine & Spirit, March 1997, pp 21-2). Sweden is also a country where, because of the high cost of alcoholic drinks, they tend to be consumed only rarely, at weekends or on holidays, and in binges - a case of high taxes exacerbating alcohol abuse.

ANDREW BARR

London NW6

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