The President’s response to the link to alcohol and GBV is a step backward for the country.
In 2011 the Inter-ministerial committee on substance abuse accepted international evidence and WHO recommendations on more restrictive legislation of marketing, pricing and retailing as best buys to reduce the harm of alcohol to society and the economy. Education was viewed as not enough to change alcohol consumption behaviour. More macro interventions are required to shift the drinking culture and the consequent harmful impact of binge drinking.
International evidence highlights that alcohol advertising influence children drinking at an early age and the amount of alcohol young people drink. In 2017 a SAMRC study found that 78% of adolescents who reported drinking, indicated that they were exposed to alcohol advertising through sport. In 2018 the WHO reported that 78.4% of males and 38.4% of females aged 15 to 19 years who drink, binge drink. South African research as early as 2011 showed that 12% of under 13 year olds have already experimented with drinking alcohol. It therefore is logical that having more restrictions of the marketing and advertising of alcohol will reduce children’s exposure as well as protect them, which the country undertook when South Africa signed the UN Declaration of children’s rights.
In a 2018 study by the Deutsche Bank of 50 cities, Cape Town and Johannesburg was rated amongst the top 5 cities in the world for the cheapest beer. Access to cheap beer combined with over 250 000 legal and illegal retailers, most of which are in residential areas makes consumption of alcohol very easy. The crime statistics however clearly prove that alcohol is a major factor in contact crimes. And that this increases over the weekend as alcohol retail and consumption increases. It is therefore strange that the President have chosen to emphasise education as a priority instead of committing to the introduction of legislation and resources that will reduce access through stricter licensing conditions and enforcement, increase price of alcohol and banning it except at the point of sale. Yet, government have developed the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013, national Traffic amendment Bill of 2015 and Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 to regulate these.
What has happened to these proposed legislations? Why is the government choosing to follow the alcohol industry mantra of education?
Prevention does not equal education. Prevention means taking a whole of society approach which emphasises the creation of a social environment which promotes the healthier choice. How will people choose to drink differently if adverts normalise and glamourizes excessive drinking? How will people choose buying bread and milk instead of beer if it is so cheap? How will people choose not to buy alcohol if they have 5 outlets in their street selling alcohol but no other social recreational spaces?
Mr President, please, the girls and women in this country deserve more. Release the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013 to the public for their comment. Introduce the national Road traffic Bill of 2015 for public consultation. Adopt the Liquor amendment Bill of 2017. These legislations will save the 171 lives lost every day. It will save the R245billion annually spent on dealing with the harm of alcohol and protect the very girls and women you are concerned about.
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