Drug laws considered outdated are being reviewed in order to improve the state's response to drug and substance abuse, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Monday.
South Africa is facing a national crisis over the ever increasing number of people - mainly youngsters - dependent on drugs and alcohol.
The government intends to get tough on alcohol abuse by forcing breweries to put a health warning on all beverages and imposing advertising restrictions on liquor products. We should be able to move ahead this year with our efforts to highlight the negative health [and] social effects of alcohol by putting warning labels on the containers of alcoholic products, said Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the minister of health, at a briefing in parliament on Friday.
Government has urged all stakeholders and the public to comment on draft regulations regarding the labeling of alcoholic beverages.
In a regularly flighted television advert in South Africa, a black screen appears with the words: Good Idea - get some rest. A young girl sleeping innocently then appears. The black screen emerges again with the message: Bad Idea - drinking before you do. Then the camera zooms out and reveals the young girl passed out on the pavement around the corner from a nightclub.
The head of the trauma unit at Cape Town's Red Cross Children's Hospital and director of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation Dr Sebastian van As, director of the Medical Research Council's alcohol and drug abuse research group Dr Charles Parry, and director for social services in the department of finance Dr Mark Blecher have called on government to set up an alcohol injury fund, bankrolled by taxes on booze, for victims of alcohol-related injury. The fund could also be used for equipment for beleaguered trauma units, and to finance substance abuse treatment centres(South African Medical Journal - November 2003, Vol. 93 No. 11) However if (South African) government programmes to address this serious public health programme continue to lag behind, such calls for dedicated financing will become increasingly loud. The time has come for stronger government action on alcohol. They say that in stark contrast to the image liquor industry advertising portrays, South Africa suffers particularly heavily from negative consequences of alcohol use. For example in 1999, 67 percent of patients at trauma units in a Port Elizabeth hospital had breath alcohol concentrations of 0.05g per 100ml or more. Also a national study published in 2002 showed that 52 percent of people dying in transport-related accidents had elevated blood alcohol levels. They say levels of excise taxes on alcohol are approaching international levels.Our main concern, however, is that the level of social costs in South Africa, given extremely high levels of alcohol-related violent trauma and accidents, far exceeds that of most other countries.This suggests that our excise taxes need to be higher to achieve the correct balance between benefits and costs. They say increased taxes should be specifically allocated for prevention and treatment of problems caused by the misuse of alcohol. These could include counter-alcohol advertisements, alternatives liquor-industry funded sports sponsorships, and community-based prevention programmes. The fund could also compensate victims where the perpetrator had been under the influence of alcohol, by paying for health costs and other damages. This would also be in accordance with the point made in the draft national liquor policy that we should move towards a 'polluter pays' policy, Source: Sapa 10 November 2003).
Provincial health departments have given their support to a national government campaign to curb alcohol consumption and raise awareness of alcohol abuse, the health ministry said on Sunday. The ministry said in a statement that at their first meeting of the year last week, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the health MECs from the nine provinces - collectively known as Minmec - had endorsed the drafting of new legislation restricting alcohol advertising. The regulations will include limiting advertising times for alcoholic products and introduction of warning labels on these products. Minmec resolved to intensify the health campaign against alcohol and substance abuse as one major factor behind many health and social problems in the country. The health sector spent R600 million a year on ensuring emergency services were available to respond to incidents resulting from alcohol consumption. This excluded the resources spent on treating intentional and non-intentional injuries caused as a result of alcohol abuse, and caring for those left with permanent or temporary disabilities. The health department had already issued a tender for appropriate linguistic and non-linguistic messages that would be introduced as part of a campaign to highlight the negative effects of alcohol.(Source: SAPA, 19 January 2003)