Alcohol advertising ban

Alcohol advertising ban ‘not if, but when’ says health minister Aaron Motsoaledi

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has reiterated his intention to wage a war against alcohol advertising. Motsoaledi addressed health officials at a World Health Organisation (WHO) violence prevention meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday (Sept 6).

Motsoaledi said he did not care if he creates a nanny state by banning alcohol advertising and that too many youngsters were dying as a result of alcohol abuse in South Africa. South Africa is ranked 10th in the world for alcohol abuse.

More and more people are also needing treatment for alcohol abuse because of these high alcoholism rates.

“I don’t know how soon but it’s just a matter of time. It’s not an issue of whether or not, it’s an issue of when,” he said regarding the imminence of the ban.

Motsoaledi’s Western Cape counterpart, MEC Theuns Botha, however said the war is not against alcohol but the abuse of it. Botha estimated it will take several years before alcohol advertising will disappear completely from billboards, TV and movie screens.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille who also spoke at the meeting said alcohol and substance abuse were the main causes of violent deaths and injury in the province. Zille added her voice to Motsoaledi’s and said a clampdown on alcohol promotion was essential.

“The root cause of most of the violence and trauma in our province is substance abuse and unless we deal with these issues we would not be able to bring down violence, the burden of disease and crime,” she said.

The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use has responded saying it does not believe banning alcohol advertising will curb abuse. The association’s director, Adrian Botha, said banning advertising is not going to stop people from hitting the bottle.

“We fully support any effective means of dealing with the problems of alcohol abuse. However, we believe that an advertising ban would not have the desired effect and would in fact have unintended negative consequences,” he said.

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha acknowledged some aspects of alcohol production contribute positively to the economy. “We’ve got to interact with the industry because there’s also a positive economy to alcohol in terms of wine farming and the whole wine industry,” he said.

What would a ban cost?

According to a preliminary study by Chris Moerdyk, an independent marketing analyst, a total ban on the advertising of alcoholic beverages could cost media companies revenue of as much as R1.8-billion a year.

About R800-million would be lost to sports sponsorships and development grants, and forfeited marketing expenditure.

The study, based on interviews by Moerdyk with media houses, found that:

  • The ban would cost the SABC about R400-million;
  • DStv and would lose R500-million;
  • Radio, lifestyle magazines and newspapers would lose R900-million;
  • A “conservative” estimate was that about 2500 jobs would be lost, depriving about 30 000 people of an income;
  • Loss in VAT of about R280-million;
  • The ban would lead to a short-term drop in branded liquor consumption of 5% to 8%.

Enver Groenewald, Avusa media’s advertising general manager, said that, at present, the alcohol industry spends about R1.3-billion a year (4.5% of total advertising spending in South Africa) on advertising.

“Whilst government’s intention behind the proposed advertising ban is laudable, whether there is a tangible and real benefit to be seen in terms of decreasing alcohol consumption (and more importantly, alcohol abuse) is highly debatable.

”In fact, some years after the ban on tobacco advertising was introduced, the jury is still out on whether it has brought about the effect desired.”

Moerdyk described the move to ban alcohol advertising as “one of those grand gestures that’s actually quite an empty gesture”.

”Research and experience tell us that advertising has no influence on alcohol abuse,” he said, pointing out that similar bans had been lifted in Canada, Denmark and New Zealand.

Sources: Eyewitness News, TimesLive