However, this is only the first step, warned the AAC’s chairman, Warren Whitfield, saying companies profiting from the sale of alcohol need to plough much greater sums into ‘harm reduction investment’ as part of meaningful social responsibility and ‘righting massive imbalances in society’.
“We’ve seen the havoc that alcohol abuse can wreak even with someone of the stature of Judge Nkola Motata, so no one is beyond its reach. But today more and more people are at severe risk due to a cruel confluence of circumstances such as hopeless unemployment levels, despair, isolation (especially in rural communities) and the sheer power of unscrupulous advertising,” said Whitfield.
South Africa has the dubious distinction of having the highest levels of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world with the global capital, not in some inner-city ghetto, but the impoverished platteland community of De Aar in the Northern Cape where 122 out of every 1000 babies born have foetal alcohol syndrome.
The AAC is campaigning for the complete abolition of alcohol advertising – a view supported this week by none other than the influential British Medical Association which wants the curtailment of the British alcohol industry's R8-billion annual promotional budget to include its sponsorship of sports and arts events.
The AAC enjoys the support of Zackie Achmat, world renowned founder of the Treatment Action Campaign, who said, “It’s only a matter of time before alcohol advertising is banned. It makes more sense to ban alcohol advertising than that of cigarettes”.
Bantu Holomisa also said recently, “Perhaps it’s time to begin the debate. Perhaps we should move towards producing a white paper on the issue.”
Expert estimates put SA’s addict population, including substance abuse, gambling and pornography, at well in excess of 10-million people. The annual cost to the economy runs into many billions of Rands in health care, death, insurance, lost productivity, unemployment and crime.
“Yet government’s efforts in fighting the scourge of addiction are both negligible and ridiculous. The AAC plans to lobby for a full-blown Parliamentary debate to kick-start intensive examination of what is, beyond question, a national crisis,” said Whitfield.
The AAC, has approached Cosatu, civic associations, church groups and also asked scores of emerging multi-sectoral NGOs to support their march on the Sandton headquarters of SABMiller on 30 October to deliver memorandums to the alcohol industry, tobacco, casino, pornography trade and the country’s foremost pharmaceutical giants.
“The time has come to measure the profits that they make from people who cannot control themselves and give back,” said Whitfield.
For more information on this release:
Contact : AAC Chairperson Warren Whitfield