The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the regulation of of alcohol through policies addressing marketing, availability, accessibility and pricing of alcohol so as to reduce its negative impact on people’s lives.
In a public health bid to curb alcohol-related harm, the South African government in September 2013 approved the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill – which aims to limit the public’s exposure to alcohol marketing through restricting advertising of alcohol products at points of sale, banning sports and arts sponsorships by alcohol companies and brands, and prohibiting the promotion of alcoholic beverages.
From a public health perspective, the proposed alcohol advertising ban aims to protect young people.
This move has created an increased dialogue about the issue, over the past two years, with public health advocates, practitioners and researchers backing the government in the proposed ban. However, there have been delays in the adoption of a total ban on alcohol advertising. Questions rise on whether this delay is a natural process or a result of the opposition – the alcohol industry and their allies, making the claim that a ban on alcohol advertising would have an adverse effect on the country’s economy.
Big Alcohol’s claims run contrary to public health evidence, which shows that exposure to alcohol advertising increases the likelihood to take up alcohol consumption at an earlier stage and to use more alcohol on occasions of consumption.
Looking back, there was once a policy in place on limited liquor trading hours but, this was later repealed following complaints from liquor traders. So, the alcohol industry lobbies for less regulation, less protection of youth and more profits for itself, while harm and suffering increase.
Soon, the South African alcohol policy situation will see a paradigm shift with the implementation of uniform alcohol regulations across the country. Currently, each province has its own legislation in addition to the national one. These will include: liquor traders ensuring that they do not sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 and verifying people’s age by asking for IDs, shorter trading hours than previously allowed, as well as prohibiting the sale of alcohol to already intoxicated persons. This is not all, alongside the proposed alcohol advertising ban plans are underway to also increase the alcohol minimum purchasing age to 21 years from 18 years.