Alcohol Harms Reduction White Paper published
4 September 2017
The Western Cape Government’s Alcohol Harms Reduction Policy White Paper is now complete following the approval of the provincial cabinet.
The policy guides the government’s approach to the regulation of alcohol in the province. Aspects of this policy will also result in proposed amendments to the Western Cape Liquor Act.
Currently alcohol legislation largely relates to regulating the activities of licensing, and enforcement of the production, distribution and sale of alcohol.
The general focus of the legislation does not adequately take into consideration the impact of alcohol-related harms on society and address the consequences. Over the years there have been some attempts to address the harmful use of alcohol in the Western Cape. Despite these efforts, however, problem drinking and its associated negative consequences remain a substantial health, social and economic burden to the province.
Broad consultation with various provincial stakeholders took place from October 2014. In 2015 the Alcohol Harms Reduction Policy Reference Group was established to lead the process of developing the Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction Green Paper, which was gazetted for public comment in September 2016, followed by an extensive three-month public participation process. Approximately 200 comments from public submissions were received and used to further develop the current white paper.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks South Africa as the country with the highest per capita alcohol consumption in Africa. Furthermore, alcohol risk contributes significantly to 4 of the 5 major components of the Western Cape Burden of Disease pattern.
A recently published report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) - the South African Demographic and Health Survey 2016 - found that 22.8% of men and 9% of women drank five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. Known as ‘binge drinking’, this is one of the most harmful activities common in our society, particularly practiced by young people.
It is evident that a concerted effort is required to fight alcohol abuse and curb harm caused to millions of people in the province.
That is why the Western Cape Government has dedicated the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer to address this scourge which requires the whole-of-society’s involvement, if we are to succeed.
Some of the key interventions in the White Paper aimed at addressing this scourge include:
UNLICENSED LIQUOR OUTLETS AND THE ILLICIT LIQUOR TRADE: The policy proposes taking steps to bring responsible unlicensed liquor outlets into the regulated space in a sustainable and responsible manner. Liquor enforcement units are to be capacitated and strengthened through increased resources. An integrated liquor enforcement approach is proposed to harness the full coordination power of the various enforcement authorities, including liquor inspectors, SAPS and the metro police. The Paper also identifies the need for targeted enforcement operations against licensed suppliers who are selling liquor to illegal outlets.
ENFORCEMENT: The policy approaches enforcement using a whole–of-society method. It proposes stronger links with community-based organisations, so that information from the ground can enhance enforcement operations. All spheres of government should contribute to the clamp-down.
Further interventions put forward include:
1. Increasing the number of trained liquor law enforcement officers,
2. Establishing one overarching liquor enforcement centre for operational coherence, and
3. Lobbying for well-prepared police dockets.
ALCOHOL AND THE ROAD ENVIRONMENT: The White Paper proposes the increased use of Random Breath Testing (RBT) in traffic enforcement operations. This approach is already yielding much success. Mandatory blood samples should also be obtained as soon as possible from all those involved in road crashes. These are some of the proposals aimed at ramping up prosecutions in drink driving cases.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES: It is proposed that early screening and referral services be established at schools and other institutions of learning. This will assist in identifying the early signs of alcohol harms in learners. It is also necessary to strengthen referral systems for members of the public to access services provided by the Departments of Health, Social Development and NPOs.
COMMUNITY-BASED ACTION: The community-based model for substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation should be expanded. The capacity of municipalities should be strengthened and institutionalised through the establishment of Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs). Together with the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum (PSAF), the LDACs should coordinate integrated community programmes. Community-based action projects are currently being tested through the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer. The focus is currently in four areas - Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga and in Paarl East – and successes will be progressively rolled out to more communities.
PRICING AND THE ECONOMY: The importance of the alcohol industry, particularly in the Western Cape, is acknowledged. The economic contribution is however dwarfed by the costs of alcohol-related harms. The policy proposes lobbying national government to increase the price of alcohol through increasing excise tax and/or introducing minimum unit pricing. It further proposes lobbying for the tightening of definitions and regulations of ales and beer, incentivizing the reduction of ethanol content in liquor, and implementing a tracking system of liquor products. A provincial tax will also be considered due to the effectiveness of the tax mechanism.
EDUCATION AND AWARENESS: The Paper calls for strengthening of the Western Cape Education Department’s education and awareness interventions on alcohol-harms. After-School programmes are identified as an important lever in this regard.
INFORMATION, DATA COLLECTION, MONITORING AND EVALUATION: The Western Cape Government will lobby national government for a transversal structure (national, provincial and local government) to collect information and data related to alcohol. A core proposal is to explore the feasibility of implementing a purpose-built monitoring-and-surveillance system.
The system would be positioned to:
1. Provide ongoing relevant information on the alcohol economy and alcohol-related harms,
2. Inform planning and implementation of interventions to reduce harms, and
3. Monitor and evaluate the implementation of interventions. The system should be coordinated by a designated transversal structure, such as the Western Cape Liquor Authority, and be supported by the provincial monitoring-and-evaluation structures.
Issued by Michael Mpofu, Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille, Western Cape Province, 4 September 2017