LONDON Many Britons were resigning themselves to more puritanical lifestyles Thursday as they faced the prospect of "sin taxes" that will increase the cost of alcohol, cigarettes, gas-guzzling cars and, potentially, plastic bags.
"Don't Drink or Drive" trumpeted the Sun newspaper after Treasury chief Alistair Darling unveiled the measures on Wednesday in the government's annual spending plan.
The Labour Party government is hoping that hiking taxes on booze will help curb Britain's binge-drinking culture.
But breakfast talk radio was abuzz with callers lamenting the potential death of Britain's pub scene, with the tax hike coming less than a year after the government imposed a smoking ban in all public buildings.
From this weekend, alcohol duties will rise by 6 percent above inflation meaning an extra 8 cents for a pint of beer, which already costs about $6 in an average London pub.
They will go up around 26 cents for a bottle of wine and a whopping $1.10 a bottle for spirits such as whisky.
A packet of cigarettes, already a steep $11.20, will rise by 22 cents.
The first budget under Prime Minister Gordon Brown also planned to reward ecologically minded voters by imposing higher taxes on heavier polluting cars from 2010.
The government will also begin imposing a charge on single-use plastic bags next year a measure already in place in Ireland if supermarkets and other stores don't make "sufficient progress" to voluntarily reduce their use by the end of this year.
But Steve Thompson, 39, an air conditioning engineer enjoying a lunch break with a cigarette and a half-pint of beer outside the Melton Mowbray pub in central London, wasn't buying the government's social plan.
"They know that people who are addicted can't quit smoking but they still tax it and get their revenue for it," said Thompson. "They're crooks. They waste taxpayers' money terribly."
Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said the government was "shooting itself in the foot" because it would lose revenue if pubs are forced to close.
"The government is punishing all beer drinkers rather than tackling the minority of drunken hooligans," Hayward said.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said that as British costs rises faster than in continental Europe, more people will simply go abroad for the cheaper prices, particularly on wine. The new charges will tax wine at nearly $3 a bottle the highest in the European Union and well above the 4 cents charged in France.
With Britons already facing rising prices for food and other basic amid the gloom caused by the global credit crunch, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the new taxes were a form of punishment."It is bizarre at a time when the economy is slowing, prices are rising and many families are feeling the pinch, that the government should choose to add to their burden by making the simple pleasure of a glass of wine or spirits considerably more expensive," said the association's chief executive Jeremy Beadles.
AP Reporter Regan McTarsney in London contributed to this story.