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the dti  Hosted Liquor Amendment Bill Indaba in Kempton Park

The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) hosted the Liquor Amendment Bill Indaba in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg. The Indaba is part of the process of consultations around the amendments proposed to the National Liquor Act and the dti has extended the period of public consultation until the end of November 2016.

Speaking at the Indaba, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies stated that none of the proposals on the Bill are a casting stone and government is willing to take on board any good idea.   He said the approach to liquor regulations so far has not yielded drastic consumption reduction as alcohol abuse is increasing in the country. The Liquor Amendment Bill is intending to address this. South Africa has also the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome.

"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. When we look at the admissions to casualty wards, we look at unnatural deaths, something like half of the people who are dying unnaturally in South Africa from road accidents or violent crimes have blood alcohol levels that are greater than the level that is legal to drive a motor vehicle in this country," said Davies.

Minister Davies indicated that the liquor industry should take responsibility of the financial costs that occur because of the 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 person.

“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 and if there is damage the manufacturers will be held liable,” highlighted Minister Davies.

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. He said that South Africa currently faces a quadruple burden of disease.

“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 (admittedly mainly from higher income countries,) show that harmful drinking generally begins during adolescents and persists into adulthood. He added that 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 adolescence. 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.,” stated Freeman.

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,” indicated Freeman.

Sidwell Medupe-Departmental Spokesperson
Tel: (012) 394 1650
Mobile: 079 492 1774
Issued by: The Department of Trade and Industry
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