Interest in the total ban of alcohol advertising goes beyond the borders of the country

Is alcohol advertising worth the price?

The Soul City Institute recently held a debate in Johannesburg to engage the public and interested representatives from Southern Africa, Norway and Finland to debate the banning of alcohol adverting. This follows the recent podium engagement held last month that sparked thought provoking views from the advertising industry, civil society, academia and government.

Some of the discussions questioned whether attacking alcohol advertising could be an easy way out for government and supportive entities to deal with the extensive consumption of alcohol and its impacts. The Special Advisor to the Minister of Social Development, Zane Dangor, made it clear that restricting alcohol advertising is only one of a battery of legislation and interventions that government is currently proposing.

According to the Soul City Institute CEO, Lebo Ramafoko, education alone cannot combat the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption, it needs a multi pronged attack, one of which is banning advertising and promotions. Through the Phuza Wize campaign, a campaign aimed at encouraging drinking places to become safer social spaces, the banning of alcohol advertising is one additional element. A representative from Norway, Dag Endal from Forut, talked about the measures that the country had taken including banning alcohol advertising in the 1970’s, and how this has decreased drinking of alcohol in that country and alcohol related harm. A colleague from Finland reflected that although they had many measures such as high prices and restricted availability they had not banned advertising and are the 6th highest alcohol users in Europe. They both agreed this was a valid strategy to decrease harmful alcohol consumption in South Africa, as it had been done in Norway. Closer to home in Botswana, according to Phenyo Sebonego from the Botswana Ministry of Health, the country took a multi pronged approach including banning alcohol advertising and this has decreased alcohol concumption within a few years.

There were numerous counter arguments from the advertising fraternity including some by Freddy Makgatho, Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa and although the issues of job losses was compelling members of the National Council Against Smoking argued that this was threatened when the tobacco advertising ban occurred but never happened.

Ramafoko encourages, “Even though the advertising industry feels threatened, they need to look at the bigger picture. The amount of lives lost every day is far greater and more saddening than the amount of advertising revenue and jobs that might be lost in the long run”.

The Soul City Institute and government challenges the advertising industry to consider alcohol related harm being a direct result of the bombardment of alcohol advertising. The advertising industy is dared to use their creativity to think about ways to create messages about healthy lifestyles and to join the health and development sector to respond to the challenges posed to the country by unrestricted alcohol advertising.

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