Proposed alcohol advertising ban may be just the start

Proposed alcohol advertising ban may be just the startFile Photo.

Alcohol abuse is the third biggest cause of premature death in South Africa, and researchers argue a total ban on alcohol advertising should be just the start.

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The Department of Social Development recently introduced a Bill proposing a ban on alcohol advertising. A number of groups, including the SA Chamber of Commerce, are opposing the ban.

“I used to think we could tinker with advertising, only allowing it [on television] after 9pm when children are asleep, for example,” says Charles Parry, head of the Medical Research Council’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit. “Now I support a total ban.”

Alcohol abuse kills 130 South Africans every day, and costs the country about R17-billion a year.

According to Parry, an advertising ban should be the start of a package of solutions to the problem.

With a third of alcohol-related deaths caused by vehicle accidents, Parry believes the permissible blood-alcohol level for drivers should be reduced so it is virtually impossible to drink and drive.

Limiting the hours during which alcohol is sold is another solution, but will be challenging with almost three-quarters of liquor outlets operating in the unregulated informal sector.

“The solution is not to outlaw the outlets, but rather to promote a responsible sector through fewer, bigger, better outlets that can be regulated and have more to lose if they don’t comply with regulations,” Parry tells Health-e.

Parry also proposes higher alcohol taxes. Currently, wine, beer and spirits are taxed between 23 and 48 percent.

Other measures include community mobilisation against alcohol abuse, making treatment available for alcoholics and ensuring government has a clear alcohol strategy.

Alcohol, tobacco, lack of exercise and poor diet are the biggest causes of non-communicable diseases, including heart attacks, cancer and strokes.The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that a 10 percent reduction in alcohol consumption would have a significant impact on preventing early deaths. – Health-e News Service.