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Press Release: Is the evidence enough to move to government to act?

SAAPA SA urges the government to immediately respond by reviewing the alcohol tax regime so as to reduce alcohol-related harm and its impact on the fiscus, as suggested by Professor Van Walbeek from UCT School of Economics.

The increase of 12 cents on beer announced by the Minister of Finance will do little to change the status of Cape Town and Johannesburg amongst the top 5 cities in the world for the cheapest beer! Beer is still cheaper than a loaf of bread or a litre of milk in South Africa!

In the International Alcohol Control Study of adult drinkers in 2017 in Tshwane, it was found that 53% of participants could be classified as heavy drinkers (8 drinks for men and 6 drinks for women in one occasion) and 93% of the absolute alcohol (in litres) was consumed in heavy drinking occasions. The 2018 WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health reported that of those in South Africa aged 15-19 who drank alcohol, 74% of males engaged in heavy episodic drinking in 2016, while the figure for females was 34%.

In 2015 alone, South Africa spent over R143 billion on road crashes and injuries. The total figure for annual government spend on alcohol-related harm is over R247 billion whilst only generating R97billion in revenue. Approximately 172 South Africans die each day of alcohol-related causes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has since 2010 recommended that an increase in the price of alcohol products results in a decrease in demand, alcohol consumption and consequently a decrease in alcohol-related harm. Combined with reducing access and availability, and restricting marketing these ‘3 best buys’ have the potential to drastically reduce the impact of alcohol consumption on individual health and the economy. The case of Thailand showed that the impact of a 2% surcharge on alcohol products resulted in a decrease in consumption from 8.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita in 2005 to 6.9 litres in 2014.

South Africa already has the answers. In 2017 the National Economic Development Labour Council (NEDLAC) commissioned Genesis Analytics to study the impact of the proposed National Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017. The study specifically examined the likely effects of provisions in the Bill related to restricting advertising, increasing the legal drinking age to 21 years, changing licensing requirements, and extending liability to manufacturers.  According to the report, these measures would result in:

  1. A saving in government spending of between R 0.7b and R 1.9b (including savings on government spending on public health of between R 0.3b and R 0.73b)
  2. A reduction in the number of binge drinkers aged between 15 – 20 year olds of between 84 000 and 194 000
  3. A reduction of 290 000 (7.5%) in the number of binge drinkers
  4. A saving of at least 185 lives per annum as a result of a reduction in alcohol-related road traffic fatalities, HIV transmission, crime, violence and gender-based violence

The study showed that the public health arguments for stronger legislation are supported by evidence demonstrating the overall benefits for the health of the population and for the economy as a whole.

Increasing the price and banning advertising of tobacco has been demonstrated to reduce consumption in South Africa. South Africa can achieve similar results with increasing the price of alcohol and adopting the National Liquor Amendment Bill. Government will save money and the quality of life of South Africans will improve.

SAAPA SA calls on Treasury to prioritise measures to reduce alcohol-related harm and develop a mini-budget dedicated to this public health crisis.
SAAPA SA calls on the Department of Health to release the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013 to the public for comment.
SAAPA SA also call on the Department of Trade and Industry and Cabinet to urgently facilitate the adoption of the National Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 so that we can reap the health, economic and social benefits of evidence-based alcohol regulation.
SAAPSA SA also calls on the National Department of Health to establish a Health Promotion & Development Foundation funded by tax to prevent alcohol-related harms and harms from other commercially driven health problems.

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