Soul City discussion highlights the importance of limiting alcohol advertising

The three panellists at the Soul City discussion Lebohang Letsela, Kgalabi Ngako and Maurice Smithers discuss the relationship between alcohol advertising and risky sexual behaviour among the youth.


The Soul City Institute for Social Justice held a discussion at their offices in Dunkeld to talk about the harm of advertising alcohol to the youth and how this can lead to risky sexual behaviour.

The discussion was facilitated by Matokgo Makutoane with panellists Lebohang Letsela, a researcher for the Soul City Institute, Kgalabi Ngako, the deputy director for policy for substance abuse for the Department of Health, and Maurice Smithers, the South African co-ordinator for the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa). They each discussed their findings and came to a unanimous decision that there needs to be more regulation of advertising alcohol.

Letsela has conducted extensive research on how young people between the ages of 18 and 24 perceive alcohol because of the advertising they are exposed to.

She said that for many teens, alcohol was viewed as an attractive product which is easily accessible. Transactional sex, rape and unprotected sex were also common outcomes of youths drinking.

Smithers has encountered many examples of the consequences of alcohol advertising and the use of alcohol by youths and aims to empower communities to proactively address these challenges. He said that the advertising of flavoured beers and sweet alcoholic drinks blatantly attracts youths. Alcohol reduces inhibitions, and the chances of having unprotected sex are significantly increased.

“The main thing is to counter the propaganda of the liquor industry, particularly around alcohol policy and work, [to place] a ban on all forms of alcohol advertising and promotional activities, and to encourage awareness, particularly amongst young people, of the challenges of alcohol,” said Smithers.

Many members of the audience highlighted the fact that many youths do not consider alcohol to be a drug and there needs to be more emphasis placed on the dangers of alcohol. Ngako emphasised that one of the goals of the Department of Health is to prevent substance abuse. He also highlighted the need for continuous unbiased research to highlight the risks of advertising alcohol, to youths in particular.

READ Healthy Friday: 7 scientifically sound reasons to drink more water

The National Liquor Amendment Bill does make some reference to limiting marketing of alcoholic beverages and is currently awaiting parliamentary processes.


Tell us on WhatsApp 079 439 5345 if you think a ban on alcohol advertising will be effective.

Laura Pisanello

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