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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Why alcohol ads should be banned

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has urged society to support him in his bid to stop the advertising of alcoholic beverages. He announced that draft legislation to provide a total ban is to be presented to Parliament this month. It is indeed a brave move, but it's fraught with danger as the liquor industry is the largest contributor of advertising revenue for most media outlets. Yet, the social negative effects of alcohol use/abuse are incalculable.
Charles Parry, Nadine Harker Burnhams and Leslie London, writing in an article entitled 'Issues in public health' argue that currently, about R2 billion is spent annually on alcohol marketing/advertising in South Africa, with sports sponsorships accounting for some 30%.

Glenda Nevill of The MediaShop said the SAB alone increased its adspend from R547 million in 2010 to R816 million in 2011 - a 49% increase. The total adspend for 2012 was predicted to be R33.8 billion for all industries. Are South African companies/advertisers financially extravagant fools? The answer is no.

There is a direct relationship between advertising spend and increased consumption of an advertised product or service. Advertising buys a share of the trust between the brand and target market.

Richard Pollay, author of 'The Distorted Mirror: Reflection on the Unintended Consequences of Advertising' uses a metaphor of 'brain surgery' when he speaks of the influence that advertising has on society. Pollay says there is no doubt that advertising influences our culture, which in turn influences us. Advertisements are designed to "attract attention, change attitudes, and to command our behaviour". Pollay insists that advertisers present information in a way that is easily absorbed so that we do not have to do a lot of thinking in order to take in the concept and apply it at a later time subconsciously.

Influencing young people's behaviour

Writing the in the South African Medical Journal, Vol 102, No 7 (2012) researchers Parry, Harker Burnhams and London concur with Pollay. They argue that contrary to the liquor industry view that alcohol advertising only influences brand choice, studies in several countries established that alcohol advertising influences young people's behaviour; it normalises drinking in many different settings, brings about positive beliefs about drinking, and encourages young people to drink alcohol sooner and in greater quantities. A meta-analysis of 322 estimated advertising elasticities found a positive effect of advertising on consumption, says the researchers.

As a direct result of relentless advertising messages it is reckoned that South Africans consume over five billion litres of alcohol annually; this equates to 9-10 litres of pure alcohol per person.

According to the World Health Organisation 2011 report our consumption is already among the highest per capita consumption rates in the world. Commonly, high overall consumption levels are found in countries such as the Russian Federation, which display both high beer and high spirits consumption.

A scourge in our country

The 2009 SA Government research indicated that an estimated 50% of people who die on South African roads have a blood alcohol concentration level above 0.05 g per 100 millilitres, which is the maximum legal blood alcohol limit for a private motorist, for the drivers of "public" vehicles, i.e. taxis and buses the limit is 0.02 g.

The December 2012 drink driving figures alone further lends credence to this study. A total of 2174 people were arrested for driving-related offences. More than half of the arrests, 1153 people, were for drunken driving according to the preliminary results released by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). Clearly, drunken driving is a scourge in our country.

It is within this context that the call by Motsoaledi to impose a total ban on alcohol advertising must be supported.

Motsoaledi also contends that the alcohol industry claims to contribute billions to the country's economy every year, but at the same time it causes about R39 billion worth of devastation yearly. Although available figures on total cost of alcohol related matters on the fiscus differ vastly, the Minister's figures aren't pie in the sky.

Cost to society

According to Savera Kalideen, advocacy manager at Soul City, in a November 2009 study, it provided an estimate of what government is actually spending on account of alcohol abuse rather than attempting to calculate the full cost to society of alcohol abuse.

"Our research suggests that provincial governments allocate a total of close to R7 billion on direct costs as a result of alcohol use and abuse, while national government allocates more than R10 billion. The revenue gained from value-added tax on alcohol sales and liquor licenses is estimated to be R16 billion, which means government spent R1.1 billion out of its own coffers," the study says. Whereas researchers Parry, Harker Burnhams and London estimate the cost to provincial health departments and the national Department of Health in 2009 alone to be R6.1 billion and R0.5 billion, respectively.

While the liquor producers profit substantially from their customers engaging in heavy drinking episodes, this behaviour places an enormous burden on the country. Researchers in a 2004 study found that alcohol accounted for 6.3% of DALYs lost in South Africa (i.e. years of life lost through dying prematurely) because of an alcohol-related event or living with a disability caused by alcohol. About 130 people die daily as a result of alcohol-related causes, and 46% from injuries. We clearly have a problem on our hands. It is time for extraordinary measures to deal with this situation in our country.

There is ample evidence indicating that the severe public health burden from hazardous and harmful use of alcohol in South Africa warrants the same drastic action. We have to stop the liquor industry in its tracks. Let us confiscate the industry's fishing rod to save the fish from the poisoned waters of advertising.

I vote for a total ban on alcohol advertising and zero alcohol level for drivers.

About Bhekisisa Mncube

Bhekisisa Mncube is a Communications Expert at the B74 Media Lab PR Agency and a political analyst at Gagasi 99.5.FM. He is versatile writer, communicator and media relations specialist.
    Bhekisisa Mncube
    Somehow social advertising fails to have the same effect on public opinion as the mainstream advertising. This is a matter that requires further research.
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 10:57
    Wazier Mohammed
    ADLAND: The one place I do not want to be at the moment. Half of the agencies are not going to survive without the ad revenue!
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 12:39
    Llewellyn Kriel
    Nowhere in the world - except in Islamic nations where deeply entrenched centuries-old religious dogma exists - has there been any kind of successful ban on alcohol advertising. Not even the Prohibition against its production and use was in any way successful. And, as long as alcohol exists, its promotion - including its advertising - will remain. Cries (especially those that emanate from sycophantish adulation of the ruling dominus) for an end to advertising alcohol will be as futile as bans against tobacco advertising have been in reducing its use. Recent surveys by MIT, Pew and Ipsos (among numerous others) have shown that smoking is indeed increasing or remaining unchanged among youth at schools from Seattle and San Francisco to Singapore and Sydney. As a recovering alcoholic (13 years sober and an equal time without smokes), I carry no candle for either alcohol or tobacco. But I do carry mountainous torches for freedom of choice and of speech. I have sympathy for Motsoaledi's sense of futility in the face of alcohol abuse, but puerile and ill-advised authoritarianism, the knee-jerk response of the ANC, is not the answer. And if both he and Mncube diverted more resources to research into abuse patterns in all their kaleidoscopic complexity, the world might make some progress.
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 13:28
    manoah tshabatau
    try education campaigns on alcohol use and abuse, comeon you can use the alcohol tax to finance those campaigns, the world is boring enough dont make it any worse.
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 14:27
    Michael Janse van Rensburg
    Ridiculous!!!!Banning advertising will NOT stop people from consuming alcohol. Obviously he is not thinking on the impact this will have on numerous Agencies and their families. Agencies will have to down scale, people will lose jobs, and for what!!!!
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 14:42
    Noel Gissing
    Interesting since the advertising ban of tobacco products have been implemented I have actually seen more young people smoking then before and Drug dealers don't even advertise yet the streets are flooded with Tik and every other sort of drug you can think of. It was not advertised E.g. buy one get one free or even dial a drug, no but it is a flourishing industry. What one wonders is in how many accidents and injuries is it a combination of Drugs and alcohol, funny how alcohol abuse really escalated in the last few years more or less when drug abuse reared its ugly head. If advertising is this brainwashing monster then why is it that we don't all vote for the same party it could be that we have common sense and the freedom of choice to know right from wrong. So educate the target market and become part of a real solution instead of creating new problems from job losses because of advertising companies closing down and driving more people to bars and bottle stores to drown their sorrows.
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 15:11
    Arnold Pollak
    Sadly like most people in glass towers, the minister only looks at the issue from a very narrow minded perspective. While I do believe that the intentions are good, I am sure Hitler's were as well if you look from the perspective of national pride. Where is the transparency that the government so touted. Why not rather look for ways that can benefit all involved like calling for a larger percentage of the ad-spend to be on awareness or working together with alcohol outlets so they cover some of the costs of abuse? Just my two cents worth. Arnold
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 16:55
    Arnold Pollak
    Brilliantly said. As you mentioned, alcohol consumption was never stopped during prohibition. To me this amplifies the point that you cannot legislate away social issues. I believe using the funds that are generated from the taxes and profits on the sale of these products to better understand and educate against abuse would do far more to curb abuse. A ban only makes abusers go underground.
    Posted on 26 Apr 2013 17:00
    Christian von Dürckheim
    Question: most crimes are perpetrated with in impoverished communities? yes? Do people living in LSM 3 to 5 have the means to buy expensive booz? no? FACT: Majority of ad budgets are spent on LSM 8-10 products, hence the Target market/ audience are VASTLY different to Lower income target markets. So if we have a look at WHERE these high LSM VERY targeted adverts are being run, and what the content of them are and to WHOM it is addressed we can deduct that it is not to the impoverished Crackling 5 Litre drinker therefore banning alcohol advertising will make zero difference to the plite of victims of crime, for the SIMPLE reason, Crackling White wine is a non-advertised wine and the drinker of this particular wine does not consume it for its great flowery bouquet, but rather to get of his or her face drunk! Social upliftment and education into the risks of alcohol abuse on the other hand will make a 100% difference.
    Posted on 29 Apr 2013 14:25