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Press release: International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

Alcohol the “legal” drug that costs South Africa billions

The alcohol industry promotes alcohol as an essential element of a desirable lifestyle by using images of young, successful, fun-loving people surrounded by copious amounts of alcohol.

None of the adverts talk about the fact that alcohol is a drug (or an addictive substance) that affects your moods, lowers your inhibitions and reduces your cognitive abilities, leading to many social and health harms, such as road accidents, unsafe sex and interpersonal violence.

There are no images or narratives reflecting these problems in the many costly adverts promoting alcohol consumption.

The public is not told that alcohol attributable harm costs South Africa about R236 billion, annually which is about 10% of our GDP!

“As we observe the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance South Africa (SAAPA SA) urges the government to prioritise addressing the challenges posed by alcohol because of its devastating health, social and economic consequences on the lives of our citizens, particularly on young people,” said Maurice Smithers the Chairperson of SAAPA South Africa

When parliament debates the recent State of the Nation (SONA) speech by President Ramaphosa and as government moves forward with partnerships with the private sector, SAAPA SA calls on politicians and public officials to remember:

  • The 171 deaths due to alcohol every day
  • The adolescents and young adults - 74.4% of males and 38.4% of females between 15-19-year-old - who drink harmfully (e.g. binge drinks)
  • The 12% of children under 13 year olds who have already experimented with alcohol
  • The 60% of women who experience abused report that their partners used alcohol before abusing them
  • The 60% of drivers who died in Motor Vehicle Accidents and tested positively for alcohol

Smithers explains that while the alcohol industry generates revenue and jobs for the country, It also creates a massive economic, social and public health burden.

Smithers added: “A challenge for government must be to regulate alcohol advertising, trade, distribution and consumption to reduce the harms it is causing and the spiraling costs of alcohol related harm.”

These billions being spent dealing with the aftermath of harmful alcohol consumption threatens the vision of creating 2 million jobs, reducing hunger and violent crime.

If South Africans engage in less harmful drinking the related costs will decrease and valuable resources can be channeled towards other government priorities.

SAAPA SA calls on the 6th Parliament to acknowledge the current alcohol attributable health and social crisis facing the country and to act by adopting the National Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017, consulting the public on the National Road Traffic Bill of 2015 and releasing the long-overdue Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013 to the public for comment.

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