I remember the rumour on the streets 3 years ago was that the drinking age would soon be going up to 21. At the time I had just turned 18 and my first thought was obviously “NO THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING”.
Luckily (although I suppose that’s debatable) it didn’t happen, these things called laws take time to pass. However, the rumour was more than that, as the SA government had been in the process of writing up a new Liquor Amendment Bill.
Fast forward to 2017, the Liquor Amendment Bill begun consultation sessions on the 27th January where it will be open to contention to parties and you, the citizen. Business Tech reports that South Africans have until the 28th Feb to have their say about the bill.
The Liquor Amendment Bill will not just target the drinking age but is also looking to change alcohol advertising restrictions as well as where liquor can be sold. So in the interest of informed decision-making, here is what the new liquor law could mean for you (and other South Africans).
THE BIGGIE: 21 +
No, the Liquor Amendment Bill isn’t just about pissing on your freshly turned (or almost) adult parade. Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies claims that their real concern is to prevent potential brain damage as studies show that the human brain only fully matures in your mid-twenties. Here’s one study. According to Mental Health Daily, cognitive development continues until the prefrontal cortex has fully developed in the mid-20s – this affects everything from emotional maturity, to self image and judgement.
Another hope is to curb early onset of alcoholism. Business Tech reports that according to Davies and Africa Check, SA currently holds the title for the highest consumption levels of alcohol in the world (10-12%) as opposed to the world average (6%).
The studies (as studies tend to be) are general findings, meaning the results do not represent all 18-25 year olds. My issue with increasing the drinking age is that it will only widen the gap between the current legal drinking age, resulting in criminalizing a larger group of people (more instances of underage drinking), as well as result in an increase in illegal liquor sales more likely to be drunk in private spaces- which is worrying because it could be dangerous. In other words, it won’t stop 18 year olds from drinking, it will only stop them from practicing it safely.
According to BT, currently, alcohol adverts are only allowed to air between 2 and 5 PM on weekdays and before 12PM on weekends. Radio restrictions are currently 6 to 9AM, and 2-5PM on weekdays with no advertising before 12PM.
The Liquor Bill aims to ban all alcohol adverts between 6AM to 7PM.
LIABLE ILLEGAL DISTRIBUTORS
Distributors of illegal alcohol (think: shebeens) will now be held liable for any damages caused by their distribution. Therefore any “unlawful conduct, death or injury and/or the loss of or physical damage to property” caused by a buyer from their business will result in them being held legally liable.
The main concern with this is how this law will affect townships, where shebeens (illegal liquor stores/pubs) form a large part of the economy.
The Liquor Amendment Bill will also ban manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol anywhere less than 5KM from “schools, place of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and other like amenities”.
So what do you say- Yay or nay?
By Zoya Pon
Feature image via pinterest.com