The article says imported third-category drinks, mainly from South Korea, are selling in Japan for less than 100 yen, naturally causing trouble for the local boys. Some lawmakers, however, are said to oppose the plan on grounds that "ordinary people" should be able to enjoy the pleasures of these beer-like drinks.
Another, more hopeful note comes at the very end of the article:
At the same time, the DPJ has been aiming to introduce a tax that corresponds to alcohol content, and officials are expected to discuss such a system at future meetings of the government's Tax Commission. If such a tax were implemented, beer varieties containing around 5 percent alcohol would be taxed at the same rate. This could result in third-category beer fizzling out altogether.
Personally, I'd prefer to see a tax structure like this, which doesn't reward manufacturers of beer for producing low quality products. In the meantime, don't let your friends drink beer-like beverages!
In other Japan beer news, it looks like two new tie-ups between Japanese and Korean brewers will mean pints of Premium Malts or Sapporo beers on your next trip across the Sea of Japan. (Here and here).