Taxes on high-strength beers and lagers are to be increased as part of a drive to encourage responsible drinking.
The additional duty will come into effect from autumn 2011 and will be imposed on beer with a strength above 7.5% alcohol by volume, said Downing Street.
Meanwhile, duties on low-alcohol beers with a strength of 2.8% or less will be reduced.
The amount of the new tax will be revealed by Chancellor George Osborne in his Budget next spring. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman declined to comment on its size, but said it is intended to be large enough to influence drinkers’ behaviour.
The Public Health White Paper makes clear that ministers are determined to tackle the issue of problem drinking.
“We need a new approach to public health, one that directly involves the many influences on our choices,” says the paper, being launched by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
“Too many people die too young, spending too long suffering from preventable ill-health, such as through alcohol abuse. The failures of policy to date are clear to see, as we have 1.6 million people dependent on alcohol.”
Mr Cameron’s spokesman said the decisions on the strength levels at which the new duties will be applied reflected research by health and homelessness groups about the problems associated with super-strength lager.
“The objective is to encourage the production and consumption of lower-strength, rather than higher strength beers,” said the spokesman.
“Clearly, tax is one of the instruments by which we can create incentives for production and consumption to change. The intention is to incentivise people to make different choices.”