Resolutions adopted at anti-substance abuse summit

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Durban - To fight substance abuse, there must be harmonisation of all laws and policies that govern alcohol across South Africa - laws that deal with production, sales, distribution, marketing, consumption and taxation should become applicable across all provinces and municipalities.

This was one of 35 resolutions adopted at the 2nd biennial anti-substance abuse summit held in Durban this week.

Director General of Social Development Vusi Madonsela said action will be taken immediately where possible. Changes that could be brought about through legislation would take more time due to the deliberation and consultation processes.

In the interim, the resolutions passed will be taken back to the communities who raised issues with their respective leaders before the summit.

Madonsela said the resolutions will also be made available on the department's website for discussions. Those people or stakeholders that oppose any resolutions can still state their cases.

Accessibility of alcohol could also soon be curtailed by raising the legal age for purchasing and public consuming from 18 to 21. Government has already opened a public debate about increasing the legal age.

There has been a call for imposing restriction on the time and days of the week that alcohol can be legally sold.

In addition, the number of taverns and shebeens must be decreased - government would need to use the law to come up with stricter criteria when issuing licenses.

Duties and taxes on alcohol products must be imposed, and tariffs should be implemented on a sliding scale in relation to the alcohol content, said another resolution.

One of the bigger themes that emerged from the summit, which brought together government, labour, business and civil society, was proposed legislation changes around advertising and marketing of alcohol.

Delegates felt there should be an immediate implementation of current laws and regulations that permit the restriction of the time, location and content of advertising related to alcohol.

Discussions about adverting of alcohol were also held during the summit. Delegates proposed that a short-term measure could be that alcohol must not be marketed at times and locations where young people may be influenced. Adverts should also not portray alcohol as a product associated with sport, and social and economic status.

Young people need to be taught life skills in schools and children also need to be taught about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.

Madonsela said education campaigns were proving to be effective, with a decrease in the number of foetal alcohol syndrome cases in the Northern Cape.

He said the awareness campaign would continue to be government's primary focus because it has been bearing fruit.

To prevent substance abuse, youth and sport development needs to receive more attention; therefore multiple approaches to prevention across different disciplines must take place.

President Jacob Zuma said in his opening address that government has also renewed its commitment to build recreational facilities and sports facilities for the youth in both urban and rural areas.

On the issue of drunk driving, the legal alcohol limit for drivers must be reduced as this is likely to discourage the consumption of alcohol. Novice drivers (0-3 years after obtaining a driving license) should not be driving after consuming alcohol even if it falls with the legal limit.

There must be additional criminal and administrative consequences for institutions that sell alcohol to underage drinkers and intoxicated patrons.

In tackling the drug issue, a cross-departmental operational unit in government must be set up. The purpose will be to implement measures to stem the drug problem across its entire value chain.
Another resolution that government must get on with immediately is finalising and implementing legislation around human trafficking.

South Africa would need to provide more rehabilitation and after care facilities for substance abusers.
Madonsela said while government will do all they can to implement the resolutions, substance abuse still remains a societal issue that will require everyone to get on board.