06 Jul 12 A total ban on alcohol advertising: Presenting SA’s public health case
A new paper in the SA Medical Journal argues the public health case for a total ban on alcohol advertising in this country. Evidence from burden of disease and economic costing studies amply indicate, it says, that the public health burden from hazardous and harmful use of alcohol in South Africa warrants drastic action.
The SAMJ preamble: Evidence that banning alcohol advertising is likely to be an effective intervention is reflected in WHO strategy documents on non-communicable diseases and harmful use of alcohol. Studies on young people furthermore support arguments refuting the claim that advertising only influences brand choice.
Given the weakness of relying on industry self-regulation, the government is considering legislation to ban alcohol advertising, resulting in heated debate.
Tobacco control and studies investigating the effect of alcohol advertising bans on consumption and alcohol-related deaths point to the effectiveness of such action – ideally supplemented by other policy interventions. Arguments against an advertising ban include possible communication sector job losses, but these are likely to have been exaggerated. Banning alcohol advertising will necessitate greater scrutiny of digital media, satellite television and merchandising to reduce the likelihood of subverting the ban.
While abstention from drinking is high, South Africa is among the countries having the highest consumption of absolute alcohol per drinker per year, the second highest category of harmful patterns of drinking, and the highest category for past year heavy episodic drinking. While liquor producers profit substantially from their customers engaging in heavy drinking episodes, this behaviour places an enormous burden on the country…..