Curbing the effects of booze

2016-09-27 06:00

The provincial government’s Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction Policy green paper has been gazetted, and is now available for public comment.

The draft policy is a result of extensive research and input from a diverse public sector working group, commissioned by the Western Cape Government. The policy is intended to guide the government’s approach to the regulation of alcohol in the province.

Research indicates that South Africans drink more alcohol than people from most other countries. The average consumption of pure alcohol per drinker is estimated at 27.1 F per year, placing South African drinkers at the upper end of global consumption, the government says in a statement.

In 2013, alcohol was recognised as the third leading risk factor for death and disability in South Africa, following unsafe sex and obesity. It is also a dominant substance of abuse in the Western Cape, the statement says, with cases of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder recorded in the Western Cape are among the highest in the country. It is for this reason that alcohol-related harms provincial government, as a key area of focus in the current term of office.

According to the statement, between seven and 10% of our GDP (between R165bn and R236bn) is the estimated loss to South Africa’s economy due to alcohol-related harms; 70% of crimes are linked to substance abuse; and between 18 and 26% of Grade 1 learners in certain high-risk communities showed signs of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The public is now invited to engage with and provide comment on the gazetted draft policy. The closing date for providing input is 30 November.

The draft policy explores different possible interventions. These would require action from local, provincial and national government, greater enforcement from the police and other safety and security agencies. The roles of the private sector and civil society are also defined.

Some of the key policy proposals include reducing easy access to alcohol (especially underage drinkers), by limiting trading hours in some instances or ensuring ID verification at purchase points; a focus on the entire value chain, including responsible consumption, responsible production, distribution and trade; and support for price increases as a means to impact on binge and youth drinking, especially on payday weekends.

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