In a lawsuit brought by groups fighting underage drinking, a Nebraska judge has ruled that “alcopops” should be taxed like distilled spirits, not like beer, The Associated Press reported Feb. 17.
“Alcopops” are brewed malt beverages with distilled spirits added for flavor, such as Bacardi Breezers, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Smirnoff Ice. Under the new ruling by Lancaster County District Judge John Coburn, taxes on the drinks would jump from 31 cents a gallon to $3.75 a gallon, and they could not be sold at beer-only retail outlets like mini-markets.
Coburn’s ruling was based on a state law that required that beverages with distilled spirits must be taxed as hard liquor. The state liquor control commission decided in 2008 to classify alcopops as beer, just as the federal government does.
In 2009, a mother and three state groups working to reduce underage drinking filed suit challenging the commission’s ruling. One of the groups, Project Extra Mile, said that classifying the drinks as beer made them more accessible to teens by making them available at more stores and at lower prices than if they were classified as hard alcohol.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has decided to appeal the new ruling, the Lincoln Journal Star reported, Feb. 22.