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UK government pushes low abv wine

A UK health minister has called for greater flexibility in tax arrangements to allow for an escalation in the cost of wine based on alcoholic strength.

Currently, tax for wine is the same across the board, regardless of alcohol strength (Photo: Pixabay)

Minister for public health Jane Ellison told a parliamentary committee that the government is aiming for a “shopping revolution” by encouraging consumers to buy low-alcohol wine with price cuts brought about by tax breaks.

Hinting at the beer model, where tax is based on alcoholic strength, the minister told the Lords’ committee for EU Home Affairs, Health and Education that current European Union rules regarding wine tax were a “frustration”.

“We do need to return the flexibility, to be able to go further. One of my particular interests would be in trying to use market forces to drive the low-alcohol market,” she said

She argued that the trend in wine of increasing alcohol strength over the last few decades was a problem, and she “would love to be able to do more to create more of a market for low alcohol products.”

EU law stipulates that wine – which can only be classified as such if it has over 5% abv – be taxed at the same rate regardless of its strength.

A loosening of this could create a “shopping revolution”, the minister argued. “I want them [retailers] to have that flexibility to do that.”

There has been an increased focus on the levels of alcohol consumption of late, as government and health officials warn of the effects of “mild alcoholism”.

Recently, doctors in the NHS have begun prescribing drugs that cut cravings for alcohol in a bid to reduce consumption.

The head of Public Health England also warned of the “silent killer” that is everyday drinking, claiming that a glass of wine can be as bad for health as “three shots of vodka”.

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