LEG­IS­LA­TION IS NOT AL­WAYS THE SO­LU­TION

As­pects of the Liquor Amend­ment Bill need fur­ther in­ter­ro­ga­tion as they may have neg­a­tive con­se­quences

CityPress - - Business - ZODWA VELLEMAN busi­ness@city­press.co.za Velleman is Heineken SA’s cor­po­rate af­fairs di­rec­tor

Al­co­hol abuse is an un­de­ni­able chal­lenge in South Africa. In truth, there are peo­ple who drink ex­ces­sively. The lev­els of un­der­age drink­ing have be­come un­ac­cept­able. Al­co­hol abuse and ex­ces­sive drink­ing can lead to so­ci­etal is­sues such as vi­o­lence, ac­ci­dents and fa­tal­i­ties on the roads, foetal al­co­hol syn­drome, to name but a few.

As the al­co­hol in­dus­try, we un­de­ni­able have a role to play in en­sur­ing our prod­ucts are con­sumed by those legally al­lowed to, and in mod­er­a­tion.

As an in­dus­try, we fully sup­port the aims, ob­jec­tives and the spirit of the Liquor Amend­ment Bill and will con­tinue to sup­port ini­tia­tives to re­duce ex­ces­sive al­co­hol in­take and its ef­fects on the health of the na­tion.

We do, how­ever, be­lieve that there are cer­tain as­pects of the bill that re­quire fur­ther in­ter­ro­ga­tion as they may have un­in­tended neg­a­tive con­se­quences, not only for the wider al­co­hol in­dus­try, but for other in­dus­tries that work with the liquor in­dus­try.

Dur­ing the Eastern Cape Liquor Sum­mit re­cently, the min­is­ter of health said that the al­co­hol in­dus­try wanted South Africa to be a coun­try of drunk­ards.

This could not be fur­ther from the truth.

The in­dus­try does not ben­e­fit nor re­joice when a prod­uct cre­ated for en­joy­ment and so­cial get-to­geth­ers is used ir­re­spon­si­bly. Ex­ces­sive drink­ing is a risk to the sus­tain­abil­ity and growth of all our busi­nesses.

No al­co­hol in­dus­try player would en­cour­age binge drink­ing for short-term gain.

Rather, we stand united against ir­re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion of al­co­hol.

One such ex­am­ple is how the al­co­hol in­dus­try has made an up­front in­vest­ment of R150 mil­lion as an ini­tial out­lay to a fund aimed at ac­tively pro­mot­ing ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes fo­cused on aware­ness of ir­re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion of al­co­hol.

While gov­ern­ment is yet to de­cide on whether it will join us in in­tended planned ini­tia­tives, the In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­spon­si­ble Al­co­hol Use (ARA) is hedg­ing on with strate­gic ini­tia­tives as we can no longer wait.

The pro­posed Liquor Amend­ment Bill has once more high­lighted the need for all role play­ers to join hands in deal­ing with the chal­lenge of al­co­hol abuse.

While there is un­for­tu­nately no one-size-fits-all so­lu­tion or ap­proach, tack­ling this prob­lem re­quires a col­lec­tive, con­certed ef­fort from mul­ti­ple play­ers in­clud­ing gov­ern­ments, non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, con­sumer groups, po­lice forces, leg­is­la­tors, re­tail­ers, ho­tel, bar and restau­rant own­ers and com­mu­nity groups. Col­lab­o­ra­tion is in my view key, for we all have a role to play in turn­ing the tide.

The bill has been de­signed to dis­cour­age ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion and pro­poses a num­ber of in­ter­ven­tions to con­trol both ac­cess to al­co­hol and ex­po­sure to al­co­hol ad­ver­tis­ing.

These in­clude the ex­tended li­a­bil­ity clause, in­creased le­gal drink­ing age and out­lawed ad­ver­tis­ing.

The ex­tended li­a­bil­ity clause pro­poses a prin­ci­ple called “ex­tended li­a­bil­ity”, which seeks to hold man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and re­tail­ers re­spon­si­ble for all al­co­hol-re­lated harm and dam­age caused where al­co­hol is con­sumed.

The bill also holds man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors li­able for prod­ucts found in il­le­gal out­lets.

It can­not be le­gal to hold a com­pli­ant man­u­fac­turer or dis­trib­u­tor that sells its prod­ucts to le­gal (li­censed) out­lets or for an en­tire in­dus­try to be held ac­count­able and li­able for the de­ci­sions and ac­tions of il­licit out­lets or for in­di­vid­u­als who are deemed re­spon­si­ble and ma­ture by law for their ac­tions. Prov­ing causal link for li­a­bil­ity will cer­tainly clog our con­strained le­gal jus­tice sys­tem for years.

We do, how­ever, be­lieve that con­tin­u­ous en­gage­ment is nec­es­sary to con­struc­tively ad­dress this is­sue in a man­ner that can be ef­fec­tively man­aged by all par­ties.

Key to the so­lu­tion is en­force­ment to curb il­le­gal traders and for in­dus­try play­ers to be held ac­count­able if proven that they sell to il­le­gal out­lets.

The sec­ond pro­posed clause is to in­crease the le­gal drink­ing age from 18 to 21 to fur­ther ad­dress con­cerns of un­der­age con­sump­tion.

All above 18 but be­low 21 can only con­sume small amounts of al­co­hol un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a par­ent or re­li­gious lead­ers. The bill will, how­ever, al­low per­sons un­der the age of 21 to work in the al­co­hol in­dus­try or serve al­co­hol in li­censed out­lets.

Chal­lenged en­force­ment abil­ity is at the cen­tre of this pro­posal, as are the le­gal grounds of rais­ing the le­gal drink­ing age to 21.

In our coun­try, one is deemed to be fully per­son­ally re­spon­si­bly at 18 by law – which comes with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and rights, such as the right to vote. Next to that, we would be one of the only coun­tries in the world with a le­gal drink­ing age of 21.

The root causes of un­der­age drink­ing and al­co­hol abuse will not be ad­e­quately ad­dressed by this law, but rather serve to fur­ther frus­trate an al­ready clogged le­gal sys­tem.

The bill also pro­poses to out­law ad­ver­tis­ing or pres­ence on var­i­ous plat­forms in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia, cine­mas, the­atres, on­line or the in­ter­net, with time-based re­stric­tions on TV and ra­dio.

This will deny the in­dus­try an op­por­tu­nity to use its brands to pro­mote mod­er­ate drink­ing.

In a coun­try al­ready be­lea­guered by high lev­els of youth un­em­ploy­ment, out­lawed ad­ver­tis­ing will pose a se­ri­ous busi­ness chal­lenge to the ad­ver­tis­ing and me­dia in­dus­tries with in­evitable job losses, not to men­tion sti­fle bur­geon­ing small busi­ness own­ers such as le­gal tav­ern­ers and dis­trib­u­tors.

The in­dus­try has pro­posed rea­son­able mea­sures such as gated so­cial me­dia ac­cess be­ing leg­is­lated to en­sure that no un­der 18s have ac­cess to liquor ad­verts, and movie cine­mas and the­atres al­ready have con­trols in place to en­sure that those un­der the le­gal drink­ing age are not ex­posed to al­co­hol ad­ver­tis­ing.

The ARA code pro­vides var­i­ous fea­si­ble al­ter­na­tives that not only ad­here to en­forc­ing re­spon­si­ble ad­ver­tis­ing, but also present a so­lu­tion to pro­tect jobs in var­i­ous sec­tors, while al­low­ing new en­trants to the in­dus­try such as en­trepreneurs who are start­ing to dom­i­nate the craft beer space, to stand a chance to not only grow, but also re­main eco­nom­i­cally ac­tive.

There is no one sec­tor that can win the chal­lenges of ir­re­spon­si­ble con­sump­tion by it­self. And leg­is­la­tion can­not be the so­lu­tion to all chal­lenges.

We all have a role to play and should col­lab­o­rate for the ben­e­fit of all our peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.