Minister to rein in liquor industry ties
Business Day - Jun 20th 2012, 09:09
The Department of Social Development is finalising a set of instructions to all national and provincial government departments to regulate and restrict their interaction and relationships with the liquor industry, says a departmental spokeswoman.
Lumka Oliphant, a spokeswoman for the department, said yesterday that a Cabinet memo was being finalised which would inform all government departments and provinces that it was against government policy to engage in partnerships with the liquor industry.
The memo follows a letter a year ago from Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to all provincial premiers, instructing them not to "partner with any company in the liquor industry, even in programmes that the industry describes as part of their own initiatives to reduce alcohol-related harm".
In her letter, Ms Dlamini said that while the government would "engage with the liquor industry as a key stakeholder (to) develop policy and legislation to reduce alcohol-related harm", there should be no partnering with the alcohol industry. This was because "when government partners with the industry it tends to improve the brand image of the industry and by association the products it produces and markets".
This was especially true when it came to "responsible drinking" messages aimed at the youth and adolescents.
The minister’s letter also made it clear that the department’s objective was in line with policies of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and resolutions on noncommunicable diseases by the United Nations, "which actively discourage the partnering of governments with the alcohol industry in developing public health and social policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm given the inherent conflicts of interest and indeed, objectives".
The minister said the instructions being sent out to government departments were "a matter of principle".
Ms Oliphant said: "When government does form such partnerships, the perception is created out there that government endorses the brand."
The steps to curb the interaction of government departments with the liquor industry are part of a broader campaign to limit alcohol-related harm. An interministerial committee, led by the minister of social development, was formed in 2010.
The committee is also looking into other recommendations endorsed by the WHO, which include restrictions on the availability of alcohol, including raising the legal drinking age, alcohol pricing, a ban on the advertising of alcoholic products, and education programmes.
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