French anti-cancer group condemns super-strong beer

High-alcohol beer - from 14-17% - should be taxed with harsher sales conditions, an anti-cancer campaigner has said

A French anti-cancer campaigner is calling for stricter laws and higher taxes on super-alcoholic beer, to make it less attractive to younger people, and to raise awareness of alcohol’s link to cancer.

Axel Kahn, president of anti-cancer group la Ligue Contre le Cancer, named certain ultra-strong “beer”-type beverages - with an alcohol content of 14-17% - in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien, and accused authorities of “negligence” in their sale.

The beverages in question are traded under brand names including Cyclone, Mega Demon and Maximator, he said.

Their alcohol content puts them only just under the threshold that would require them to be sold as “spirits” rather than beer, he said, but they are usually sold for around €5 per 500ml can.

According to brewing association Brasseurs de France - whose members include 98% of French producers - these kinds of beverages make up just 0.5% of the market. But Mr Kahn has still called for more stringent sales conditions, and has called on authorities to “study the question, and legislate”.

Mr Kahn said: “This is an attack on the health of young people, [and] a trap they will find it difficult to escape. These are sold in cans of 500ml, and you cannot close them once they are open. You have to drink them all. A young person [doing so] will have then consumed the equivalent of a bottle of wine.

“These buyers are homeless people, and young people. They are attracted to them by their bright, attractive coloured [designs] - which are inspired by comic books and video games, for example, images of dragons. You only have to walk anywhere that a student night has been held, to see these empty cans covering the ground.”

Mr Kahn has proposed that these drinks should no longer be called “beer” as they “do not use traditional processes”, and are instead “made by adding sugars and [extra] yeasts to amplify their effects”.

He has also said that taxes should be increased on the drinks on a sliding scale depending on their alcohol level, so that the strongest beverages cost the most.

He said: “This would dissuade buyers”, and compared the suggestion to that of cigarette packet pricing, which in recent years has been raised as a deterrent to buyers.

Mr Kahn condemned “the negligence of authorities”, and said that alcohol causes 41,000 deaths per year, of which 15,000 are linked to cancer.

This makes alcohol the second-highest cause of avoidable death in France, behind cigarettes, according to figures from a Santé Publique France study in February this year.

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