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Seems everyone agrees ads are not the drinking and smoking culprits

Last week, Government published its National Liquor Policy in an effort to curb the horrendous alcohol abuse in South Africa.
The new regulations make sense, although some are overly complicated. But at no point is there any mention of curbs on the marketing and advertising of liquor products.

Of course, Government might argue that this issue will not be part of the National Liquor Policy but rather encapsulated in legislation specifically aimed at alcohol marketing.

If it ever sees the light of day, that is.

Almost 30 months ago, the Minister of Health announced that he would publish the relevant Bill "within the next two weeks." It hasn't happened, mainly because of strong disagreements within cabinet about just how far these regulations should go.

Eventually, the impasse was broken by a decision in Cabinet for the health authorities to conduct an independent impact assessment on the implications of alcohol ad and sponsorship bans on employment, sports development and so forth.

Seems everyone agrees ads are not the drinking and smoking culprits
©kzenon via 123RF

Since then, there has been a deafening silence. Hopefully, because government has realised that alcohol advertising and sponsorship plays an almost insignificant role in tempting consumers to start smoking and drinking.

Because last week, research by the Economics of Tobacco Control Project based at the University of Cape Town, showed that the massive increase in excise tax on cigarettes was far and away the biggest contributing factor to the decline in smoking in this country. The study found that warning labels, a ban on advertising and smoking in public places "only made a modest difference."

Which of course supports a lot of research worldwide showing that banning advertising does not have any significant impact on persuading consumers to start smoking and drinking.

It is interesting to note though, that most studies on smoking in this country show a decline in smoking - generally from about 30 percent of the population ten years ago to about 20 percent now. But, what none of these studies clarifies, is whether those statistics include those cigarettes that are illegally imported. Which is significant, as it amounts to almost a third of all cigarettes smoked.

But, getting back to alcohol, the media and marketing industries have been prepared for almost two years now to vigorously defend any attempt by government to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

But, quite when government will get its act together enough to actually publish their much vaunted Marketing of Tobacco Products Bill is anyone's guess.

About Chris Moerdyk

Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.

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