SA booze traders want to be heard

The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) issued yesterday what sounded like a desperate call to be heard in the development of legislation that may ban alcohol advertising in South Africa.

The alcohol industry is facing a grim possibility which could see it go the way of the cigarette industry as development of the proposed Control of Marketing of Alcohol Bill gathers pace. The proposed Bill bans all forms of alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotions.

The ARA said in the statement it has noted with caution the announcement that the proposed Bill will be tabled by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, at the next Cabinet meeting scheduled for 18 September 2013.

Obviously fearing the possibility that cabinet may agree with Motsoaledi’s proposition the ARA said it  recognises the harm caused by alcohol abuse and is committed to work with Government and other stakeholders to address the health and social impact of alcohol misuse. “ARA appeals to Cabinet to balance these genuine public health concerns with other equally important national priorities such as the significant economic implications for a potential ban of alcohol advertising in South Africa”.

“Up to now, the Department of Health has made it impossible for the alcohol industry to engage on any matter relating to the proposed Bill. We have made numerous efforts to meet with the Department to present our proposals to no avail. Government always encourages stakeholder participation on all public policy matters affecting our communities and we hope that Cabinet will ensure that inputs to alcohol policy will not be treated any different”.

As an interested party, ARA has concrete proposals to address the key concerns about alcohol misuse including:

§  risk of exposure of children to alcohol marketing messages;

§  using ‘glamorous content’ which may create false illusions about the effect of alcohol amongst the youth;

§  need to better enforce and track the overall volume and/or frequency of advertising in various media”.

South Africans cannot afford to ignore latest empirical research that shows that the ban of alcohol advertising will undermine almost 12 000 permanent jobs. Such a significant job cut runs contrary to the job creation objective of the National Development Plan which the alcohol industry and the rest of business fully support”.

The advertising ban will further see some significant loss of sponsorship for sports development (R4.3billion) and arts and culture (R394million).  Broadcast media (TV and radio) is expected to lose R1.4billion followed by the print media (newspapers and magazines) at R96.3million while outdoor (billboards) advertising revenue will also drop by R96million”.

“All these issues should be discussed objectively and in consultation with everyone involved”.

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