The Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) has noted the World Health Organisation's status report on alcohol and health, released recently, and is acutely aware of the significance of harmful use of alcohol and damaging patterns of drinking.
As the report recognises, it is important that governments develop and enforce alcohol policies appropriate to their populations, and alcohol producers have a complementary role as economic operators in addressing problems of harmful use.
ARA recognises the harmful effects caused by alcohol abuse and agrees such behaviour is unacceptable. Industry is therefore committed to working with Government and other stakeholders to address the health and social impact of alcohol misuse. The ARA believes that the most effective way to address alcohol abuse is by targeting those drinking patterns that are associated with harm. Proven approaches include education, law enforcement and strong self-regulation.
As a result, the ARA and its members are actively implementing the Beer, Wine and Spirits' Producers Commitments to Reduce Harmful Drinking (www.producerscommitments.org). These commitments were signed in October 2012 and form part of the signatory companies' longstanding efforts to discourage harmful drinking through initiatives and partnerships which also supports of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol.
These commitments are to reduce under-age drinking; strengthen and expand marketing codes of practice; provide consumer information and responsible product innovation; reduce drinking and driving; and enlist the support of retailers to reduce harmful drinking.
The ARA also notes that the report states nearly half of all adults worldwide have never touched alcohol, and nearly 62 per cent say they have not touched a drink in the past year. This aligns with South Africans consumption patterns where the majority of the populations don't drink. Only a small population of South Africans drink (between 30% and 40%) with even fewer of those that actually abuse alcohol.
While the majority of South Africans consume alcohol in a responsible manner, the percentage of consumers who abuse alcohol has a disproportionately negative impact on South African society, which is why the alcohol industry is so focused on addressing abuse. It is encouraging to note the Report's focus on drinking patterns, beyond population-level measures of consumption, and believes that beer, wine, and spirits producers are well-positioned to complement smart government policy and strong enforcement by supporting targeted interventions.