Drinks industry irate as health minister talks total prohibition on advertising

The ‘ban booze advertising’ issue has been hot on media pages this week… and industry leaders are irked that Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, who is apparently keen on a total ban on the marketing and promotion of alcohol, has not embarked on consultation with those likely to be most affected.

More than seven out of 10 South Africans over the age of 15 do not drink alcohol. However, over 40 percent of the approximately 30 percent who do drink fall into the category of “heavy episodic drinkers”.

Industry sources say it is because of the damage caused by these “heavy episodic drinkers” that Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is pushing for a total ban on the marketing and promotion of alcohol.

Despite the high rate of abstinence in South Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given the country a ranking of four out of a possible five in terms of the risks attached to drinking patterns. The UK, which has an abstinence rate of only 35 percent, has a risk ranking of only two.

Motsoaledi has long proposed that the alcohol industry be subjected to the same restrictions on marketing and promotions as the smoking industry. In 2010 he said: “What is being done to smoking is going to be done to alcohol.”

The figures relating to South Africa’s alcohol environment are the latest available from the WHO and date back to 2006. Local industry sources indicate that there has been little change on the 2006 figures.

The major players in the alcohol industry have been heavily critical of media reports that Motsoaledi was intent on pushing ahead with legislation that would totally prohibit the marketing and promotion of alcohol.

South African Breweries (SAB), which controls an estimated 89 percent of the local beer market, said it was deeply concerned by the news. It also noted that the legislation had been drafted without input from the industry.

“SAB is profoundly disappointed and concerned by the decision taken by the ministers of health and social development to consistently refuse to engage with the alcohol industry, despite the fact that we agree that alcohol abuse is at unacceptable levels… Both the ministries of health and social development appear to be increasingly taking a prohibitionist view on alcohol, which has had disastrous consequences in those parts of the world that have gone this route,” said Benedict Maaga, SAB’s media relations manager.

He added that while it was perfectly legitimate for those who were motivated by religious or moral beliefs to express their views on alcohol “it is inconceivable that government should draft such a bill without input from industry”.

Maaga said that SAB shared the concerns around the abuse of alcohol and believed that it must be tackled by all the interested parties. He said that the proposed draft bill appeared to tamper with an industry’s constitutional right to market products that were legal.

Sibani Mngadi, the public policy and sustainability manager at brandhouse, whose extensive range of products includes J&B, Amstel and Johnnie Walker, said the proposed ban would not reduce alcohol misuse but would have an adverse economic impact.

It was estimated that the industry spent about R2 billion on advertising each year.

Mngadi said brandhouse had engaged with the government and it was not given any reason to believe that a total ban on advertising and promotion was under consideration.

Spirits and wine producer Distell said that it shared the government’s concerns but opposed to a total ban as a means of preventing alcohol abuse.

Source: Business Report

Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, says he won’t apologise to anyone for his fight against alcohol abuse.

Responding to reports that billions of rand and thousands of jobs would be lost if his department went ahead with a plan to ban liquor companies from advertising and sponsoring teams, he said: “They want to talk about businesses collapsing and unemployment, but what about human rights?

“I won’t apologise to anyone for fighting alcohol abuse.”

Opening the R700 million Khayelitsha District Hospital with Premier Helen Zille on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said SA was ranked 10th on the world list of countries where drunkeness was most prevalent.

“Alcohol abuse is one of the main causes of trauma and violent crimes in this country. This is a big emergency and we have to do something about it. We are going to work together to fight alcohol abuse in the Western Cape and in this country.”

Motsoaledi called on communities to fight alcohol abuse the same way activists fought apartheid.

The liquor industry has described the Health Department’s draft bill on alcohol advertising as draconian, short-sighted, misguided and devastating to jobs.

The department reportedly wants an outright ban on the liquor industry advertising and event sponsoring.

Zille said alcohol abuse was the source of most trauma in the province.

“Most traumas are related to alcohol abuse. And we have to deal with this trauma at the source.

‘‘That’s why we have enacted the Liquor Act in the Western Cape,” Zille said.

Source: Business Report