The Department of Trade and Industry has issued the National Liquor Amendment Bill for public comment for the next 45 days.
The bill proposes prohibiting the supply of liquor or methylated spirits to persons under the age of 24 – from 18 currently.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies pointed to evidence suggesting that “the brain does not fully develop until the mid-twenties, in fact – and that when the brain is not yet fully developed the impact on the brain of alcohol abuse is much more severe than it is on the fully developed brain,” he told Parliament on Monday.
He also noted that in countries where the age of drinking was increased, evidence showed that motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol abuse had declined.
Public comments for the Liquor Amendment Bill close on 30 December 2016.
According to Minister Davies, South Africa currently has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world at 10-12% as compared to the world average of 6%.
“We are also the highest with regards to the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world, and 41% of the injuries are from incidences related to alcohol consumption,” he said.
He also said that the state spends about R3.7 billion per annum on problems related to alcohol abuse. Davies said the proposals raised in the Bill were also as a result of the benchmark done in other countries were it was proven that for instance raising the alcohol consumption age assisted in reducing negative incidences related to alcohol consumption.
The minister also warned manufacturers and suppliers of alcohol to illegal or unlicensed outlets. He said that if damage is caused from the consumption in those unlicensed outlets, the manufacturers and suppliers would have to show that they took reasonable steps to ensure that their product was not supplied to those outlets.
The new bill also calls for the prohibition of the manufacturing, distribution or retail sale of liquor in either rural or urban community is prohibited on any location that is less than 500 metres away from schools, place of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and other like amenities.
Any alcohol-related adverts will have to indicate the harmful effects of alcohol, the minister said, while radio and television adverts would only get airing beyond time slots prescribed by the minister.