Sunday, 6 November 2011

First they came for the smokers...

The government believe the extra tax on high strength beer has been so effective that they are planning to extend it. Let's not bother waiting to see any results, they aren't even pretending to research any more.

The government has already introduced a levy on ‘super-strength’ lager. Back in March the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced there would be a 25% rise in the tax on beer containing more than 7.5% alcohol, the equivalent of an extra 25p per can.

Yes, indeed he did. It came into effect about a month ago and that is plenty of time for the Puritans to decide it's a great idea and more than enough time for Elf-Lord Cameron of Fairyland to declare it a success. Alternatively, they'll need to move to the next stage before anyone notices this one hasn't done what it said on the tin.

And now the Department of Health has confirmed it would like to see that extended.

If anyone out there is surprised to hear that, you're on the wrong channel. The X-factor is more your scene. Back to sleep, drones.

According to Anne Milton, the minister for Public Health, the department is in talks with the Treasury about the possibility of further levies, arguing that super-strength taxes are a step in the right direction.

With a face like hers she could only be a Puritan. So, the 'measure to curb binge drinkers' has now become only a 'step in the right direction'. The pubcos will be falling over themselves to give a little more ground. Then a little more at the next step, and the next, and the next. How have these idiots managed to stay in business so far?

She highlighted that the alcohol industry had already reacted to the levy on beer, cutting the alcohol strength to fall below the new duty level, and suggested this would continue if extended to other forms of booze.

Are you listening yet, CAMRA? Too late, there's nobody left to speak for you now. You already helped to ban us all from your pubs, remember? How about you wine drinkers who applauded the attack on those you consider plebian lager drinkers? Still happy with your work?

Currently, it is unclear exactly where the government will draw the line on what constitutes a ‘strong’ wine. However, Milton did point out that the average bottle of wine is now around 12.5% proof, compared to 9% back in the 1970s.

It is perfectly clear where they draw the line. It's the same as the smokers' line. Zero. They have no other target in mind. They will drive it down to lemonade and they've already started on sugar so don't get too used to that either.

Well, along with those dodgy Chinese smokes we will soon have dodgy industrial alcohol masquerading as gin. The criminal gangs are laughing at you, Tories. You are about to boost their economy to unprecedented levels while grinding every legal business into the dirt. What a wonderfully business-oriented government we have - if you're in the dodgy side of business, that is.

All that talk of liberty and freedom rings very hollow indeed now, Cameron. Cast-iron Dave is more of a Rusty Cam these days.

Here comes prohibition. Again. It will result in massively increased strain on the NHS while they deal with the results of moonshine and meths but it'll be a success by Cameron's fantasy definition of the word.

Just as the ban on guns means nobody gets shot, the ban on knives means nobody gets stabbed, so the ban on booze will mean nobody gets drunk.

Do you see a pattern yet, Dave? No? Well, maybe a few more bans will make it clear.

Somehow I doubt you'll ever see it.

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, the homebrews are firing up. Smoky-Drinky will continue, and it'll be even cheaper than it is now.

Cheers, Tory Party. We'll be sure to remind your wine-drinking voters of this at the next election.


Curmudgeon said...

Yep, I said when this tax was introduced that the principle was bound to be extended. And, actually, I've seen no evidence so far of beers having their strength reduced.

Apart from Skol, that is, which has gone down from 3.0% to 2.8%. But that is just making a piss-weak brew even more piss-weak.

The Filthy Engineer said...

My local publican is so desperate now that he is advertising a 1 hour happy hour on food, each night.

manwiddicombe said...

Can I beg to differ about high strength beers Curmudgeon? I can tell you from personal experience that microbreweries are shying away from creating new brews above 7.4% ABV.

The duty due to HMRC on a 7.5% ABV beer is, if I've read the Duty Notice correctly, double that of a 7.4% beer. And that's not a small increase.

Existing beers may survive for a while, larger breweries might be able to absorb the extra cost better, but the new, exciting, flavour packed, exotic, high ABV brews from the micros are unlikely to happen in any quantity again.

Curmudgeon said...

No, the duty is definitely 25% higher, not twice as much. See here.

I'm sure it is frightening micro-breweries off producing higher-strength beers, but so far I am not aware of any well-known brands that have had their strength reduced to 7.5%. This includes Carlsberg Special, Tennent's Super, Gold Label and Old Tom.

Smoking Hot said...

Apart from the home brew (we have red wine, white wine and beer on the go) we'll see the growth of the booze cruise again.

Stuff the government and it's taxes!

manwiddicombe said...

Sorry Curmudgeon, my apologies and thanks.

I will pass this info onto the Head Brewer and his Finance Director that shied away from brewing above 7.4% because of their belief of a massive extra duty charge.

When the notification sheet from HMRC came through the post we read it as the 50% Small Brewers Relief would not apply over 7.5% ABV. It was not as clearly worded as the link you left.

Curmudgeon said...

Ah no, we were at cross purposes there. I'm not quite sure how HSBD intermeshes with small brewers' relief - certainly you don't get the relief on the 25% surcharge, but whether you forfeit it all I don't know.

So apologies all round :-|

Leg-iron said...

Booze cruises from Scotland only have to go as far as Carlisle at the moment.

Further increases, well, the Scots have a long tradition of 'the shed in the hills' and of dodging the revenue men. I can see that part of history repeating itself very soon.

Anonymous said...

Glad I've already got my brew-shed up and running!

Anonymous said...

Well, the Scots did have a way of dodging the revenue men, but, how would they cope with heat sensing helicopters? Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

A lager shandy for me and everyone else from now on then...

Neal Asher said...

Really, all politicians should be forced to study the story of American prohibition.

Anonymous said...


"BY NOW, it was not only liberal Eastern wets like New York Gov. Al Smith who were calling for modification of the Volstead Act. A growing number of Republican leaders were abandoning the dry chorus: Nicholas Murray Butler, the distinguished president of Columbia University, had denounced Prohibition as evil and inhuman; even the saintly John D. Rockefellers, senior and junior, solid Baptist teetotalers both, had withdrawn funding from the Anti-Saloon League fanatics.

In referenda in New York and four other states, voters had overwhelmingly called for relaxation of the pious laws that the farm belt had successfully imposed upon all America seven long parched years earlier.

In early December 1926, New York's federal grand jury went on record as opposed to the national prohibition laws, arguing, among other things, that they had all by themselves created "a ruthless and dangerous set of criminals."

And still the federal sleuths mounted large prosecutions; still the Dry Navy prowled the coast for rum runners; a week before Christmas, President Calvin Coolidge went before Congress to request still another $30 million for enforcement."

"The official Health Department numbers made it plain that more and more people were dying of bad alcohol in New York City every year, not even counting the off-the-books deaths: 127 in 1921, 233 in 1922, 370 in 1923, 499 in 1924, 585 in 1925. The city's 1926 death toll was expected to surpass 750. Nationally, the number was nearly 4,000.

Every Christmas, the Anti-Saloon League's general counsel, the odious Wayne Wheeler, made a public point of expressing satisfaction at these figures.
"If a man wishes to violate the Constitution of the United States," Wheeler liked to chuckle, "he should be free to commit suicide in his own way."

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the city, reported Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Norris, 11 more merrymakers died, and 55 were committed blind and sick and raving to hospital wards.

By wednesday the 29th, the death count had hit 37, and hundreds were hospitalized. These included not only the standard-issue Bowery bums, but several perfectly respectable businessmen, a policeman and two young St. Luke's Hospital nurses who had gone to a party, had one drink each and were dead three hours later."

"Merry Xmas from Uncle Sam," observed the Daily News.

ON FRIDAY the 31st, there were 43 dead, and it wasn't even New Year's Eve yet. By midnight, two more people were gone and another 28 were hospitalized. And it was only midnight.

UNCLE SAM, said The News, "is sound and fine at heart. But he is controlled, just now, by a gang of blackjackers cloaking themselves in the sacred names of law observance, civic and national duty, patriotism. The Washington administration knuckles under to these daughters and sons of witch hunters of olden days, because it fears them."

Anonymous said...

"Well, the Scots did have a way of dodging the revenue men, but, how would they cope with heat sensing helicopters? Food for thought."

RPGs and heavy machine gun fire?

Anonymous said...

The knock on effects of poisoning alcohol during Prohibition on a herbal medicine.

Monday, Mar. 24, 1930

"Cold, sore throat, numbness in legs, paralysis in legs, violent illness. . . . Through this course 400 people in Oklahoma have run, 160 in Tennessee. Georgia and Mississippi. They suffer from a new paralysis for which doctors have been unable to determine either cause or cure. One sufferer, a four-year-old Oklahoma City girl went one step further, died.

Jamaica ginger, which almost all of the stricken confessed drinking, has been mentioned as a cause. Jamaica ginger is an infusion of the peeled and ground roots of he ginger plant in alcohol. In medicine its used internally to remove gas on the stomach. Many women use the candied root or the extract to soothe their periodic griping. Because Jamaica ginger gives a lot feeling to the stomach and because it contains alcohol it is like lemon extract, favorite tipple of inland drinkers unable to buy normal imported alcoholic beverages. They call Jamaica ginger "jake."

Oklahoma Health Officers suggested that metallic poisoning from the ginger was the cause. Analysis of several samples failed to disclose any trace of common metals.

Providence, R. I. health officers reported 20 cases; blamed wood alcohol in Jamaica ginger. In two of their cases partial blindness was found.",9171,738897,00.html

Anonymous said...

Jake Leg

"Newspapers in 1930 reported the occurrence of a new neurologic disease. Persons afflicted with this ailment first noticed the development of wrist and ankle drop.

In his 2003 article in The New Yorker, Dan Baum wrote that “the patient’s feet dangled like a marionette’s, so that walking involved swinging them forward and slapping them onto the floor.”

That is, of course, if the patient could walk; permanent paralysis was common. Two doctors in Oklahoma City quickly linked the outbreak to drinking Jamaica Ginger Extract; within months, hundreds of victims were reported in Cincinnati; Wichita, Kan.; and Johnson City, Tenn.

Various names were used to describe the gait—“jake leg,” “jake walk” and “jake foot”; the terms “limber leg” and “limber trouble” referred to the accompanying impotence."


Zaphod said...

"A study in 2009 found that half of 11-15 year-olds had already had an alcoholic drink."

A poll, minimum-wage-temps asking kids if they've ever drunk alcohol, (and believing them), is a "Study"?

Science is truly a wonderful thing.

NickM said...

I dunno if any of you folks are readers of Raymond Chandler? His take on US prohibition is stunning.

Just one thing in one of his novels (I forget which) has speakeasy owners employing cops as bouncers. It's brilliant. Obviously they aren't the only ones on the take, so are their pals in cop-car cruisers outside. But beyond that they are trained and armed so as to handle aggressive drunks. So you run your illegal bar with the illegal yet implicit OK of the rozzers and not only that but you got people skilled in crowd control bouncing for you.

Anyway, back to Chandler. Anyone who doubts the terrible effects of prohibition ought to read him. At one point Marlowe gets shot-up with heroin after being coshed and taken to a dodgy clinic. And the whole thing is sordid beyond description. Marlowe likes a drink (as did his creator) but his musings on what prohibition has done to LA is devestating.

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