Government must protect the youth by implementing stricter alcohol regulations

Too many young lives have been lost and destroyed because of the failure to implement existing alcohol legislation and adopting new laws.

South Africa’s high levels of alcohol consumption are continuously in the spotlight as a public health concern, and young people are affected in unique ways that can be prevented.

The misuse of alcohol and underage drinking continue to plague South Africa despite years of research and advocacy to protect the youth, and society as a whole, against the harms of alcohol. The lack of implementation of policies to curb these problems leaves South Africans, especially young people, vulnerable. For instance, legislation in Gauteng has prevents the sale of alcohol within 500m of schools, but this is often not enforced. The Soul City Institute has seen the violation of these bylaws often, and in one instance, an unlicensed tavern was situated just 200m away from a school.

Research conducted by the institute and STRIVE Consortium found that young people have easy access to alcohol in their communities. Additionally, these communities are densely populated with alcohol outlets, with many in close proximity to schools and unrestricted entry to teenagers younger than 18 years. Young people also reported that alcohol is easily accessible to them and alcohol advertising is appealing and entices them to drink alcohol. Young women also reported exposure to unsafe and transactional sex and sexual violence at alcohol outlets.

A recent review study conducted by the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa), which Soul City Institute is a member of, and the South African Medical Research shows a clear link between alcohol and gender-based violence (GBV). While excessive alcohol consumption is not the cause of GBV, the research shows that men who engage in harmful alcohol consumption are three times more likely to be perpetrators of GBV and intimate partner violence.

Addressing our high alcohol consumption rates by calling for individual responsibility is simply not enough.

We need to see structural solutions. South Africa needs stronger alcohol legislation to protect young people, curb the burden alcohol abuse causes on the public health system, decrease levels of risky sexual behaviour and GBV. But these regulations will be in vain if not fully implemented.

As Youth Month comes to end, we call on the South African government to protect young people through implementing existing policies and adopting the proposed legislation, such as the Liquor Amendment Bill, which will ensure better regulation of the distribution, trading and marketing of alcohol.

For media queries, contact:
Soul City Institute Communications Team
011 771 9001

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