LINCOLN, NE -- State liquor officials were weighing their options ... after groups battling underage drinking won a major victory in the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The court ruled that flavored malt beverages, such as Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, should be taxed as liquor rather than beer.
Diane Riibe, executive director of Project Extra Mile, said she was "beyond ecstatic" about the outcome.
"Justice came today for Nebraska's children and taxpayers," she said Friday.
Her group has long argued that higher taxes would discourage youngsters from drinking the fruity, sweet beverages, which critics dub "alcopops."
State taxes on spirits are $3.75 per gallon compared with 31 cents per gallon for beer.
Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, said the ruling puts Nebraska out of step with the federal government and most other states.
It would mean an increase in the cost of flavored malt beverages and would force them out of stores that are licensed to sell beer only, he said.
Rupe said the commission is considering its next step. Among the options, it is seeking a rehearing from the state high court. Another is to redouble efforts to change state law.
The commission backs a bill awaiting first-round debate that would classify -- and tax -- the drinks as beer.
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