Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use: briefing

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Health

13 March 2003
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Meeting report

HEALTH PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2003
INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION FOR RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL USE: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr. L. Ngculu (ANC)

Documents handed out
Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use Powerpoint Presentation

SUMMARY
The committee was informed that extensive South African based research had failed to confirm that lack of warnings on labels was a risk factor and that a workshop on alcohol abuse issues affecting wine farm workers did not identify lack of warnings on labels as a risk factor. The committee had earlier expressed concern that most advertisements seemed to convey the wrong message to youth concerning alcohol consumption. The committee was informed further that research had shown that there was no evidence to support the view that advertisements led to increased abuse of alcohol and drugs. The committee felt that alcohol and drug abuse was caused by the incidence of poverty, peer pressure, family and environmental considerations stating that advertisements only had a secondary effect on attitudes and habits.

MINUTES
Briefing by Dr Makan
Dr Makan, Executive Director of the ARA informed the committee that ARA is the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use and that its vision is to act as a representative authority and policy making body of the South Africa Beverage Alcohol Industry on the Social Aspects of beverage alcohol. ARA's mission is to protect the right and freedom of members to trade and promote the responsible use of alcohol beverages as part of a healthy lifestyle among those who had already taken the decision to consume beverage alcohol. ARA had affiliate memberships internationally which promoted its vision and mission in the retail sector.

Dr Makan pointed out that ARA promotes, supports and encourages educational efforts in life skills development in schools which covers research to establish parental needs, sensible drinking habits, projects in trauma unit, road safety campaign and the buddy programme in tertiary institutions. ARA contributes to the development of alcohol policy and that therefore it sits on the road transport safety board. ARA held regular dialogue with the public health sector at community level and other stakeholders and that it has established liaison with alcohol research and public health community besides participating in national and international conferences in this regard.

Dr Makan further informed the committee that ARA promoted alcohol related research and helped in capacity building for such endeavours in the institute for Health Training and Development besides collaborating with Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Rehabilitation and Research Centre (ADAPRRC). ARA ensured responsible marketing through its own marketing code and business practice code. On the contentious issue of message labels Dr Makan pointed out that extensive South African based research had failed to identify lack of warnings on labels as a risk factor. A workshop on alcohol abuse issues affecting wine farm workers did not identify lack of warnings on labels as a risk factor.

Discussion
Ms Baloyi (ANC) noted that most adverts albeit in a subtle way conveyed the wrong message on alcohol consumption to the youth noting that the message that often came through was that drinking was 'cool'.

Dr Makan insisted that the message targeting teenagers under 18 years of age was that alcohol consumption was prohibited and that it was not safe at that age. He denied that ARA's advertisement encouraged abuse of alcohol noting that their message was clear to the point that alcohol abuse was harmful and that people should consume alcohol in a responsible manner.

Dr. Luthuli (ANC) noted that there were many small groupings in townships and villages that were struggling to help people over come the effects of alcohol abuse who needed support. She asked if ARA had identified and offered support to any of these groups.

Dr Makan pointed out that his organization for the most part networked with the local authorities and the provincial government and some notable NGOs noting that these small groupings have not been identified yet.

Dr. Luthuli concurred with Ms Baloyi's observations that most advertisements especially on the radio and TV tended to make alcohol consumption most attractive to the youth. She asked if ARA targeted places like discos where the youth were known to abuse alcohol and drugs. She noted that most incidences of alcohol abuse were associated with poverty and asked whether ARA in its responsible alcohol consumption outreach made any contribution toward poverty alleviation programs.

Mr Botha of South African Breweries, pointed out that besides its huge contribution in terms of taxes, the industry participated actively in and contributed significantly towards poverty alleviation programs countrywide. Research had shown that there was no evidence to support the view that advertisements led to increased abuse of alcohol and drugs. For the most part what led to alcohol and drug abuse was the incidence of poverty, peer pressure, family and environmental considerations. Advertisements only had a secondary effect on attitudes and habits.

Dr. Cachalia (ANC) lamented the fact that some employers offer beverages to employees as benefits and that there were too many unlicensed shebeens operating after hours in the townships. He insisted that with labeling the message would eventually get through to the people.

Dr Makan reiterated that one needed to look at the holistic picture to be able to understand whether or not labeling did in fact lead to behavioral change noting that the bottom-line was lack of education in this respect.

Ms Malumise (ANC) asked if ARA had taken its campaign to schools, churches and women organizations where such messages would have a greater impact on communities.

Dr Makan replied that so far ARA's programs had reached 100,000 pupils in schools and that it had helped in the development of the curriculum on alcohol consumption, which was in the process of being implemented as part of the education curricula.

The Chair asked if ARA had made an in-put to the regulations that were presently being drawn by the Department of Health on alcohol consumption.

Dr Makan replied that his organization had numerous interactions with the Department of Health but that to date it had not been called upon to make a contribution to the regulations that were being drafted.

The Chair promised to take up the matter with the Department and that the committee would invite ARA to submit their contributions when the regulations came before it.

Meeting was adjourned.

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