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UK

Tories say tax "alcopop" drinks more

A video grab image shows Conservative party Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, addressing the House of Commons in central London on January 21, 2008. Superstrength lager and cider, along with "alcopops," would be hit with higher taxes under proposals unveiled by the Conservatives on Friday to help stem binge drinking. REUTERS/Parbul TV via Reuters TV

LONDON (Reuters) - Superstrength lager and cider, along with “alcopops,” would be hit with higher taxes under proposals unveiled by the Conservatives on Friday to help stem binge drinking.

The Tories would treble the tax on such drinks and use the money to fund price cuts in low-alcohol beers and ciders.

Under the plans, announced by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, the price of alcopops including “Bacardi Breezers” and “Smirnoff Ice” would rise by 50 pence and a three-litre bottle of Diamond White strong cider by 1.25 pounds.

Wines and spirits and 90 percent of beer and cider -- including popular brands like Carling, John Smiths, Guinness, Stella Artois, Strongbow and Magners -- would not be affected.

“This package ... does not hit the vast majority of law-abiding, responsible drinkers” Osborne said in a statement. “... We believe binge drinking should not be used as an excuse for yet more stealth taxes.”

Chancellor Alistair Darling is expected to raise taxes on alcohol, including spirits this year, when he unveils his budget next Wednesday. The British Medical Association says a 10 percent tax rise could cut alcohol-related deaths by nearly 30 percent.

A Treasury spokeswoman said at present there was no provision under European law for a separate tax on alcopops.

She added that sales of them were, in fact, going down.

Reporting by Andrew Hough; Editing by Stephen Addison

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