LETTER: Tougher taxation needed to tackle alcohol abuse
Heavy drinking is responsible for a range of health issues and deaths
The SA branch of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa) urges the government to follow Grieve Chelwa and Corné van Walbeek’s suggestion to review the alcohol tax regime (“SA Ranks Sixth Globally as a Nation of Drinkers”, March 4). Beer is cheaper than a loaf of bread or a litre of milk in SA!
The 2017 International Alcohol Control study in Tshwane found that 53% of participants could be classified as heavy drinkers and 93% of the absolute alcohol was consumed in heavy drinking occasions. In 2018 the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that of SA drinkers aged 15-19, 74% of males and 34% of females engaged in heavy episodic drinking.
Annual expenditure on alcohol-related harm is more than R247bn and 172 South Africans die of alcohol-related causes every day.
Since 2010 the WHO has recommended increased prices of alcohol, reducing access and availability and restricting marketing. In Thailand a 2% surcharge on alcohol products resulted in a decrease in consumption from 8.1l to 6.9l of absolute alcohol per capita between 2005 and 2014.
A study by Genesis Analytics, commissioned by the National Economic Development and Labour Council, of the proposed National Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017 supported strong legislation and projected:
- a saving in the number of binge drinkers aged 15 to 20 of between 84,000 and 194,000;
- a reduction of 290,000 binge drinkers;
- a saving of at least 185 lives per annum.
Saapa SA calls on the Treasury to develop a mini-budget dedicated to the alcohol-related health crisis; the department of health to release the 2013 Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill for public comment; the adoption of the 2017 National Liquor Amendment Bill; and the establishment of a health promotion and development foundation. The latter should be funded by tax to prevent harm from commercially driven health problems.
Aadielah Maker Diedericks
Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance