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The National Liquor Policy up for discussion

| Wine and liquor

South Africa's National Liquor Policy, which was published for industry comment in the official Government Gazette on 20 May 2015, has resulted in much controversy, most notably in the alcohol and advertising industries, for a variety of reasons.

The National Liquor Policy, if accepted in its entirety, may see criminal liability levied against bar tenders who serve already intoxicated patrons; an increase in the minimum drinking age from 18 to 21 and the end of CASTLE lager's (South Africa's most famous beer) sponsorship of South Africa's national sports teams.

Although the period for comments has come to a close, Cabinet reported that, in the week commencing 6 June 2016, it will debate only the proposal that seeks to amend section 9 of the Liquor Act, 59 of 2003, which relates to the advertising and marketing of alcohol products in South Africa.

The National Liquor Policy seeks to amend those provisions of the Liquor Act that relate to the advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages by empowering "the Minister of Trade and Industry to determine the restrictions and parameters for advertising and marketing of liquor products in line with the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill."

Although Cabinet has already approved the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill, the bill has not yet been published for public comment. According to the National Liquor Policy, however, "the bill is calling for the restriction of advertisement of the alcoholic beverages, prohibition of sponsorship and promotion associated with alcoholic beverages." Should this amendment be accepted into law, the Minister of Trade and Industry will be in a position, for example, to prescribe when adverts featuring alcohol may be flighted. The suggestion that has been made is that advertisements featuring alcohol products may only be flighted between 22h00 and 06h00.

The current position prevents advertisements pertaining to alcohol beverages from being flighted between 14h00 and 17h00 on Monday to Friday and only after 12h00 on Saturdays and Sundays. During the permitted advertising hours, the 70/30 rule also applies, which provides that "programmes with a verifiable 30% or more viewership of persons under the age of 18 may not contain alcohol beverage advertisements" (see Appendix A – Alcohol Advertising - ARA). This applies also to the flighting of sporting events where the main sponsor is an alcohol beverage company.

It will certainly not only be in the public's interest to hear the outcome of Cabinet's views.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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