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22 Feb 2008 15:06
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Friday said her efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle—including responsible drinking habits—among South Africans were not hypocritical.
Speaking to the media at the launch of “the Healthy Lifestyle Day” in Port Shepstone, she questioned why the media linked her recent liver transplant to her promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
“I was healthy before I got sick and I am healthy now. If promoting a healthy lifestyle is hypocritical, then I don’t know what hypocrisy is.”
She said she believed that the proposed health-warning labels on alcohol products would reduce alcohol abuse and dependence.
Within the next year alcoholic beverages would carry health messages “highlighting the negative effects of alcohol consumption”.
Asked if she would consider an outright ban on alcohol to eliminate alcohol abuse instead of simply increasing prices, she said such a ban was against the Constitution.
“You have the right to kill yourself if you want to,” she said.
Alcoholic beverages could not have the word “health or other words claiming that the alcoholic beverage has health properties”.
A reduction in alcohol consumption, she said, would also lead to a reduction in violence and road accidents.
Before arriving at Gamalakhe Further Education Training College, the minister walked about a kilometre with school children, who on arrival at the college broke out into the spontaneous singing of Umshini Wami, the trademark song of African National Congress president Jacob Zuma.
Addressing a crowd of about 5 000, including nearly 1 000 school children, Tshabalala-Msimang said a recent World Health Organisation report had shown that the consumption of cigarettes in South Africa had decreased from two billion cigarette packs in 1990 to 1,3-billion packs in 2005.
She said the report indicated that at least 40% of the decrease was attributable to the increased price of cigarettes.
“The largest decrease was among young people and low wage earners who reduced smoking most when prices increased.”
Acknowledging the increasing cost of living and its effect on healthy diets, she urged people to grow fruit and garlic to ensure they lived healthy lives.
She also urged them to avoid fizzy drinks and fast foods.—Sapa
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