SOUTH AFRICASA’s liquor industry will help craft stricter alcohol advertising rules in a bid to prevent the government from raising the minimum drinking age to 21 from 18, an industry official said on Friday.

SA already has laws that prohibit underage drinking and drink driving, but critics say these are poorly enforced and often completely ignored.

In its 2014 global liquor outlook, the World Health Organisation said South Africans consumed a total of 27.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita in 2010, versus a global average of 6.2 litres of alcohol a year for those aged 15 and older.

The industry, which estimates its worth in the economy at R333bn a year and includes firms such as SABMiller, Pernod Ricard and wine producers, has offered to regulate marketing jointly with the government in an attempt to head off a ban.

“We need to find a balance. We can’t destroy an industry that brings money into the fiscus (national budget), but we also can’t turn a blind eye to problems associated with abuse,” chairman of the liquor industry task team Kurt Moore told Reuters.

Mr Moore said alcohol producers were trying to find a way to restrict radio, television and outdoor advertising but had yet to agree exactly how this could be done.

“The industry is of the view that self-regulation and government oversight do not represent two opposite and mutually exclusive alternatives,” reads an industry response submitted by Moore on Thursday.

The industry had also proposed fines for members who failed to enforce any restrictions agreed by the sector “while repeat offenders could lose their (liquor) licences”.

Public health officials in Africa’s most advanced economy say regulation of alcohol consumption and education about its abuse have failed to keep pace with the investment by companies.

“The liquor policy can address the socio-economic costs and harms associated with liquor abuse,” director of policy and legislation at the Department of Trade and Industry Clementine Makaepea said in a statement.

Besides banning liquor outlets within 500m of schools and places of worship, the government proposes holding alcohol firms liable for damages and harm caused if a drunk person commits a crime or is involved in an accident.

The proposals are yet to be drafted into a bill, which would then need to be approved by SA’s cabinet – Reuters

August 19, 2015;