Raising the legal drinking age – and other proposed liquor laws

Government has published proposals for changes to the national liquor policy, which could see tighter restrictions on alcohol sale in South Africa.

Most notable in the published proposals is for restrictions to be placed on the advertising of alcohol, as well as prohibiting sponsorship by alcoholic brands, which is sure to have a massive financial impact on many companies and sporting events.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), alcohol abuse is on the increase in the country, which is leading to increasing levels of conflict in families, violence, crime and alcohol related diseases, as well as higher levels of sexual violence and high-risk sexual behaviours, as well as road accidents.

“Currently, alcohol is easily available in an estimated 230,000 liquor outlets in South Africa,” the dti said.

“According to a report by the Medical Research Council, South Africans consume about 5 billion litres of alcoholic beverages per year.”

The department also cited the World Health Organisation (WHO) which estimated the costs of alcohol abuse in South Africa to
be $1.7 billion (R19.1 billion) and 2% of South Africa’s GDP in 2004.

“The challenges identified (in the proposals) were a result of a combination between the manner in which the liquor industry conducts itself, societal behaviour towards liquor and a possible lax on the current liquor regulatory framework to address the challenges faced,” the department said.

The proposals include:

  • Raising the legal limit to buy and consume alcohol from 18 to 21 years of age.
  • Preventing liquor sales from any outlet which is within 500 metres of a school, place of worship, recreation facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas and public institutions.
  • The proposals also suggest that no liquor licenses will be issued to petrol service stations, premises attached to petrol service stations or premises near public transport.
  • Existing liquor licence holders who operate one of these outlets can expect to lose that licence within the next 2 years.
  • Standardisation of opening hours throughout the country to control access to liquor.
  • A call to restrict the advertising of alcoholic beverages, prohibiting sponsorship and promotion associated with alcoholic beverages. These restrictions would be determined by the Minister of Trade and Industry.
  • Proposal to make manufacturers and distributors of alcohol responsible and liable for damages and harm caused if a person drinks to excess and is then involved in a car accident or a crime.
  • Proposal that a government-managed fund responsible for combating alcohol abuse be established.
  • Proposal for transformation in the “predominantly white-owned” industry, specifically in terms of BEE and the adoption of the amended BBBEE Codes of Good Practice.

According to a report by News24, liquor license lawyers have indicated that the proposals are being treated by provincial authorities in the Western Cape as if they already apply.

The proposals are currently open for public consultation, and the deadline for objections has recently been extended to 13th August 2015.

The full proposals can be read here.

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Raising the legal drinking age – and other proposed liquor laws