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How much beer does a woman like?

On the eve of the world commemorating foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, SAB ironically chose to launch a “She loves beer” campaign.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder (FASD) affects children whose mothers drank during their pregnancy. The facts are clear. Children with FASD are born with low birthweight, smaller skull and other physical symptoms which they never catch up on with their peers. They experience learning disabilities, which increases with no intervention and therefore might result in low achievement at school. They experience social problems, which can manifest in problems with the law, addiction and high risk behaviour.

South Africa has the highest recorded FASD rates in the world.

There is no cure for FASD. It is however 100% preventable! Any amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can harm the unborn child. The global slogan for FASD is “If you are pregnant don’t drink, if you drink don’t get pregnant – Eva Carter”.  Women of childbearing age who are sexually active and not using contraception and who don’t know if they are pregnant should also be mindful of the possibility that they could be pregnant and putting their unborn child at risk if they drink. 

So it is concerning that SAB launched the “She loves beer” campaign, which clearly targets young women of child bearing age. According to WHO, in 2010 only 41% of people drink in South Africa. Of the women who drink, 41% binge drink (drinking more than 4 drinks at any drinking session). In the South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey of 2011 amongst grade 8 -11 learners, 37% of male learners and 28% of female learners report past 30 day drinking; 30% of male and 20% of female learners report past month binge drinking (5 drinks or more) and 16% of male and 9% for female learners drink before age 13. These statistics demonstrate that we don’t have to encourage young people to drink. In fact, we have to find ways to discourage them because of the harm alcohol causes. 130 people die every day!

SAB however has a different opinion. Ricardo Tadeu, Zone President of AB Inbev/ SAB stated, “What we want from Africa is (beer) volume growth that is above the world average... Africa had a youthful population. “We will have much more people coming into legal drinking age in the coming years,”. SAB clearly intends to increase their marketing towards and sales amongst young people. And, the “She loves beer” campaign aims to target young women in particular. The very young women who should be receiving information about FSAD and how they can prevent it.

Like in the case of ‘White monopoly capital’ saga propagated by Bell Pottinger, we should be bold to question all marketing activities of companies like SAB/AB Inbev. Marketing attempts to shape what we think, and suggests links between consumption and progress. Images and messages are crafted to sell products and ideas promoted as essentials; as adding spice to life; is associated success with consuming particular products and brands – essentially promoting that alcohol is a ‘cannot do without commodity’ and signifies being ‘part of the modern, new generation’. The facts gives a completely different story – death, disability, violence, unsafe sex and babies born with physical and neurological disabilities!

The “She loves beer” campaign is clearly aimed at young women, drawing on the narrative of non-recognition of women’s involvement in brewing and gender equality. All of us would agree that women’s involvement in society needs to be recognized. That women should take their rightful place in leadership in any industry. This campaign however fudge gender equality with messages on how liberating alcohol consumption is and how it is essential to socializing – without providing any facts on how alcohol can affect women’s health and that of their unborn babies.

What does this mean for us as a society? When will we say enough is enough… SAB should be allowed to sell its product. What we should not allow, is for SAB to market alcohol as sexy, liberating and a tool to success. Like with Bell Pottinger, SAB and other alcohol companies deliberately withhold the true facts! It’s time to call them out. If they really want to contribute to development in South Africa, they will provide the facts about their products and allow people to make their own informed choice!

Sincerely

Philip Chimponda
SAAPA Chair

Dr Coenie Louw
Gateway Health Institute and SACSoWACH

For more information contact:
Aadielah Maker: saapa.za@gmail.com or 082 3388308
Dr. Coenie Louw: coeniedoc@gmail.com

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