Pretoria – Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has expressed concern at the levels of alcohol abuse in the country.
“Looking at the world average liquor consumption per capita, South Africa stands at about twice the average. We consume about twice as much as the world average of liquor in this country. That liquor consumption goes along with serious alcohol abuse,” said Minister Davies.
Speaking at the Liquor Amendment Bill Indaba in Kempton Park, Minister Davies said the liquor industry should take responsibility for the financial costs that occur because of liquor.
This is in line with the proposed civil liability to liquor retailers and shebeen owners, who supply liquor to illegal traders and sell liquor to intoxicated people.
“What we are proposing is that we introduce liability to people that transgress the law. You serve someone who is evidently drunk and that person goes out and commits an offence, the onus will shift. You will have to show that you did not do that. Also, manufacturers and suppliers who supply liquor to illegal traders… if there is damage, the manufacturers will be held liable,” said the Minister.
The indaba is a platform to engage key stakeholders on the Liquor Amendment Bill that the dti is currently consulting members of the public on. The bill seeks to address the socio-economic impact of liquor, the slow pace of transformation, standardisation of key aspects of regulation and improved regulatory collaboration.
The bill also addresses the eradication of manufacturing and trading of illegal and illicit alcohol, as well as challenges regarding regulatory capacity within the National Liquor Authority.
The Chief Director of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Department of Health, Professor Melvyn Freeman, said that the indirect cost of alcohol burden to tax payers is R240 billion a year.
“In each of the major disease areas, alcohol is either a critical primary risk factor and/or contributes negatively to the course of the disease/health predicament. It is estimated that alcohol is responsible for around 130 deaths every day,” said Freeman.
Freeman indicated that a number of studies (mainly from higher income countries) show that harmful drinking generally begins during adolescence and persists into adulthood. He said the proposal of the Liquor Amendment Bill of raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 will go a long way in addressing the current liquor abuse amongst the youth.
“There is also some evidence that because the brain is still maturing, that alcohol would have long term affects in the 18-21 age category – as it has on foetuses, younger children and adolescents. It is estimated that the odds of future alcohol abuse or dependence are 7% greater for each year of age below age 21 that alcohol consumption begins,” he said.
Professor Freeman further said a review of studies of the impact of moving the age limit of the purchase and consumption of alcohol from 18 to 21 in the USA concluded that increasing the age limit is the most effective strategy for reducing drinking and drinking problems among youth.
“One study showed that increasing the age limit resulted in a 14% decrease in alcohol consumption and 19% decrease in crashes among youth.”