Premier Zille plans radical crackdown on alcohol abuse

2016-10-02 06:00
Unlicensed liquor outlets are contributing to the problem of alcohol abuse in the Western Cape. Picture: Mbali Dlungwana

Unlicensed liquor outlets are contributing to the problem of alcohol abuse in the Western Cape. Picture: Mbali Dlungwana

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The Western Cape government has published a draft policy document for public comment proposing huge price increases on alcohol as a means to curb binge and youth drinking, and setting limits for trading hours.

The proposed Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction Policy green paper will see alcohol consumers slapped with price increases for all alcoholic drinks, a total ban on alcohol advertising and an alcohol limit of zero for young drivers as part of efforts to reduce access to alcohol and prevent alcohol abuse.

The document is also calling on the national government to ban alcohol advertising that is visible to children under the age of 18. It said that failure to achieve this cooperation from the national government, the Western Cape would prohibit advertising, marketing and promotion of alcohol products by alcohol companies at all public facilities.

The move will also affect events organised by the provincial government.

Michael Mpofu, who speaks for the Western Cape government, said the provincial government had observed that alcohol was a common contributor to the ills of the province, from foetal alcohol syndrome to gang-related crimes.

Mpofu said the key policy proposals were aimed at reducing easy access to alcohol, especially for underage drinkers, limiting trading hours in some instances and ensuring ID verification at purchase points.

Inadequate alcohol legislation

The Western Cape also planned to focus on the entire value chain – from production and distribution to trade and consumption – by clamping down on illegal distribution channels and outlets to ensure control measures were effective.

While the document acknowledged the importance of the alcohol industry to the Western Cape’s economy, it stated that the economic contribution was dwarfed by the costs of alcohol-related harm to the population.

It said that current alcohol legislation was limited to regulating the activities of licensing and enforcement of the production, distribution and sale of alcohol. It neither adequately took into consideration the impact of alcohol-related harm on society, nor sought to address related consequences.

Among the proposals, it sought to:

  • Lobby the national government to support the call for price increases as a means to deter binge and youth drinking, especially on payday weekends, and to raise the price of alcohol by increasing excise tax and/or introducing minimum unit pricing.
  • Tighten definitions and regulations of ales and beer.
  • Encourage the national government to incentivise the reduction of ethanol content.
  • Bring “responsible unlicensed liquor outlets” into the regulated space in a sustainable manner and identify criteria that would enable the rezoning of outlets for liquor sales in appropriate residential areas. These interventions will also target suppliers to the unlicensed liquor industry.
  • Impose restrictions on the sale of alcohol on premises that are on national or provincial roads, and lobby national government to implement a graduated alcohol limit for drivers while exercising a zero-tolerance approach with young or novice drivers.

In her state of the province address in February this year, Premier Helen Zille identified the reduction of “alcohol-related harms” as one of the key areas of focus by her government.

At the time, Zille said the scale of human tragedy caused by excessive drinking and the cost to the economy made “alcohol-harms reduction” an essential game-changer.

“It is the most challenging and intractable social problem we face. Alcohol is the common denominator in the majority of trauma cases in our hospitals. And no fewer than 80% of emergency incidents during the 2015 festive season were a result of injuries caused by interpersonal violence, usually related to alcohol or drug [abuse].”

In the proposed policy document, the Western Cape government said it had in the past attempted to address the harmful use of alcohol by vigorously shutting down unlicensed liquor outlets, increasing breath testing of drivers, and undertaking trials to screen and intervene in cases of persons coming to trauma units with alcohol-related injuries.

But these efforts were largely unsuccessful and problem drinking and its associated negative consequences remained a substantial health, social and economic burden to the province.

The public can comment on the proposed Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction Policy green paper before November 30.

Read more on:    helen zille  |  cape town

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