Ban alcohol ads

The African National Congress Youth League’s call this week for a ban on alcohol advertising comes despite the fact that the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) worked closely with them to create the league’s policy on substance abuse in 2001.

The liquor industry is aware that, like the tobacco industry, it has become a focal point for blame regarding legal substance abuse in relation to South Africa.

Perhaps partly in an attempt to avoid the fate of big tobacco—which may no longer advertise cigarettes—the liquor giants spend millions annually promoting responsible drinking.

But the tide—and renewed efforts by the Youth League to campaign against pervasive alcohol abuse, especially among young South Africans—may be starting to turn against them.

ANC Youth League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told the Mail & Guardian that the league “believes advertising and marketing play a major role in behavioural change”.

The ban on tobacco advertising has reduced consumption of cigarettes among the youth, says Kodwa, and the league is hoping to see similar results through a ban on alcohol advertising.

The ARA, which represents major drinks companies such as KWV, SAB and brandhouse, believes banning alcohol adverts won’t end abuse.

Says ARA spokesperson Adrian Botha: “We fully support the league’s concerns around alcohol abuse, but a blanket ban on advertising and sales will not address the social causes behind it.”

He adds: “Banning the advertising of alcohol doesn’t reduce consumption; it reduces consumer choice and competition.”

The Youth League’s Kodwa says: “The idea is not to penalise the industry. It is for the betterment of society.”

The ARA has called for more holistic solutions to the problems that result in alcohol abuse, including grappling with social deprivation and unemployment.

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