Drinking booze in Cape Town could get a lot harder – and more expensive

The Western Cape government (WCG) is proposing hard-line policies on alcohol use in the province – including higher prices, tighter trading hours, and a zero-tolerance approach to drinking among new drivers.

In a new green paper gazetted this week, the WCG is taking the lead on national government plans to curb alcohol abuse in the country. Nationally, government wants to kill alcohol advertising and sponsorship, while also raising the legal drinking age to 21.

According to the green paper, the tangible and intangible cost to the South African economy as a result of alcohol abuse is between R245 billion and R280 billion – while estimates put the economic contribution of the alcoholic beverages sector at R73 billion.

“The estimates point to a net cost to the economy of approximately 7-10% of GDP, or R165-236 billion,” the paper said.

The WCG said that the province was “habitually worse” than other provinces when it comes to alcohol-related harm statistics. This is across the tangible (crimes, accidents, healthcare) and intangible (welfare, absenteeism, premature mortality) categories.

To increase its battle against alcohol abuse, the Western Cape government put forward the following proposals (among many others):

  • Limiting trading hours and reducing the density of alcohol outlets.
  • Increasing the price of alcohol nationally through tax or setting minimum unit pricing.
  • Reducing the actual alcohol content in beverages, through national policy.
  • Increasing enforcement of under-age drinking regulations, particularly ID checks, which are often not done.
  • Better enforcement all-round, especially when it comes to unlicenced venues, and increasing use of breathalysers to catch drunk drivers.
  • A zero-tolerance approach to drinking and driving among new drivers – where no driver under the age of 21 or persons within 3 years of getting their first licence should be allowed to consume any alcohol at all.
  • The province also supports a national ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and marketing. Failing an outright ban, it proposes introducing a levy on such marketing to finance counter-advertising warning of the dangers of alcohol.

The full green paper is available for public comment. All comment must be handed to the Western Cape government by 30 November 2016.

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