Getting past our first Phase of the Lock down since 26 March, the banning of Alcohol and Tobacco has had a significant effect on South Africans. Not only did it effect behavioral changes creating a pressure -cooking environment and boosting criminal activity, but also effected the economy and reduced tax revenue for our Country. SARS claimed that in April alone they have lost more that R1.5 billion in tax revenue. Understanding the risks and any possible health benefits of alcohol often seems confusing; that’s understandable, because the evidence for moderate alcohol use in healthy adults isn’t certain. Reason for Alcohol Ban in South Africa
Risk of Using Alcohol in the Lockdown Period
- World Health Study has proven consuming alcohol can make a person more vulnerable to catching the Covid-19
- It can exacerbate mental health issues and risk-taking behavior
- Abusing alcohol can stoke violence
- The harmful use of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
- The latest causal relationships have been established between harmful drinking and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as the course of HIV/AIDS.
- While moderate alcohol use may offer some health benefits, heavy drinking — including binge drinking — has no health benefits
Benefits of Temporally Banning Alcohol during Lockdown
- Alcohol related admissions was reduced by 9000
- Overworked and Understaffed Hospitals can focus more on Covid-19
- Reducing of Social Crowding
- Alcohol ban could help South Africans fight Covid-19
- Avoid Damaging the immune system and the respiratory systems
- Fewer DUI (Driving under the Influence)
The ban was supposed to be simple. Ban all alcohol, preventing fights, domestic violence and drunken driving. It would prevent weekend binge -drinking across South Africa and minimize emergency hospital admissions of which alcohol is responsible. Since the nationwide lockdown the figure of 34 000 trauma cases has dropped to 12 000 every week and that is a “significant impact” says Professor Charles Perry.
The mathematical model is based on, in part, data that was received from our major Hospitals in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The restriction of movement is leading to fewer cars and accidents on the roads and that places like bars and shebeens remain shut. The researchers claim that just under 5 000 alcohol related admissions will appear in a given week if alcohol sales are permitted during lockdown. Alcohol related admissions was reduced by 9000 and allowing sales, we fear that admissions will increase up to 18 000.
To understand the Pros and Cons: Banning Alcohol in SA, we need to look back in World History.
Economy: According to Washington State University, prohibition had a negative impact on the American economy in the 1920’s to 1930’s. With losses of millions of dollars in tax revenues on liquors alone, prohibition cased the shutdown of over 200 distillers, a thousand breweries and over 170 000 liquor stores. Finally it meant nothing that the amount of money used to enforced prohibition had doubled up. The high price of bootlegging liquor meant that the nation’s working class and the poor were far more restricted during Prohibition than the middle or upper class Americans. Even as costs for law enforcement, jails and prisons spiraled upward, support for Prohibition was waning down by the end of the 1920’s. In addition, fundamentalist and nativist forces had gained more control over the temperance movement, alienating it more moderate members.
All the calls for the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco sales has been rejected up until now. These two drugs have had detrimental costs for society and reduction is beneficial to us all. But was banning alcohol and tobacco a good idea to begin with?
Banning Tobacco and Alcohol was implemented with good intentions but two reasons prove that it might have been a mistake. Firstly the ad-hoc law fails to consider the individuals with substance abuse disorders and the harm it can do. Especially in the latter, many people simply cannot stop using Alcohol. The risk develop a range of symptoms like, psychosis, nausea, seizures and and could lead to death. Substance disorder is a medical condition and often affect people with mental illness with or underlying psycho-social problems. Our health services are understaffed and unable to to cope during normal times, it is unlikely that support will be available to people needing medical and physiological treatment after quitting alcohol.
Alcohol reduces inhibitions and increase social contact. but what is set out to protect us from the spread of this virus has now opened a new can of worms. Once off black-market sales instead of weekend being the peak of happy drinkers and sharing intimate space to every day drinkers and killer homemade brews that there is no control over. Could we have made a difference if we took a step back and learned from History? Do we know who our key players are and their duties in making the decision in weighing the risk versus benefit.
The second point is that addicts wont just quit, but will rather go through extreme lengths to satisfy they everyday needs even if it leads to the risk of being arrested.
Many of these people can’t go to work or have lost their jobs and they now have to do without some relief in their already confined space. It appears that in this instance the potential harm was not thought through and taken in consideration.
In addition, the prohibition era encouraged the rise of criminal activity and the most notorious example was the the Chicago gangster AL CAPONE, who earned a staggering $60 million annually from bootleg operations. Illegal operations fueled rising gangs and violence like the St Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Despite early signs of success, including a decline in arrests, those who wanted to keep drinking found ever-more inventive ways to do it. The illegal manufacturing and sale of liquor(know as bootlegging) and the informal manufacturing (moonshine or bathtub gin) is still an ongoing activity that the Prohibition era created.
With the saloons drying out and public drinking lost much of it macho connotation, woman became more accepted in semi – public places like “the Speakeasies”. Woman was used as a new target for alcohol marketeers. They too found their way to the bootlegging business.
The most effected was heavy drinkers and alcoholics during the prohibition era. Those who found it difficult and saw their habits as destructive, struggled to find help. Self help societies had withered away. in 1935 a new self help group called Alcohol Anonymous (AA) was founded and is till in operation today.
According to Harvard University Historian, Lisa McGirr, prohibition has a disproportionately adverse impact on African-American, immigrants and Poor Whites, as the law enforcement used alcohol prohibitions against these communities.
Health: Research indicates that the rates of cirrhoses of the liver had declined significantly during the prohibition period and increased after the repeal. The death rate from alcoholism and alcohol pshychosis hospital admissions declined steeply.
Prohibition almost never works: We have seen from our experience during lockdown, telling people they can’t have something, makes them want it even more.
Economic effect: If this ban is not addressed soon, an alarming rise in illicit trade will spike as well as criminal incidents and health emergencies. Some Associations has advised to put strict rules and requirements in place, but open the trade!!!. One example was to only do online ordering with strict quantity controls.
The financial loss of income has had an tremendous impact on our Farmers and Wine Exports. More than R200-million is estimated to be lost per week. Bulk containers and pallets of bottled wine were booked before lockdown and were cancelled due to lockdown on short notices. They are continuing in discussion with government on a more urgent and forceful level say their spokesman. Their cashflow is detrimentally effected when there is basically two months zero income. They have to continue paying their staff salaries and wages, but can’t keep up the trend.
South African Breweries (SAB) may have to dump millions of litres of beer if government does not allow them to even transport it to storage depots. If they are not allowed to transport this beer, the rest of the alcohol that is nearing end of fermentation process will have to be dumped. This will add to significant losses to those companies involved since the economic lockdown due to Covid-19 virus. A large part of the inputs like barley and hops in demand by the distillers and the breweries will have lost their part of the market . The farmers producing these grains says they are in difficult times and is depended on these sales. They have been forced to plant alternatives like oats and canola in certain regions, that does not have a sales market.
Reason for Alcohol Ban in South Africa
- Based on the Global status report on alcohol and health 2018.
- The Global strategy refers only to public-health effects of alcohol consumption, without prejudice to religious beliefs and cultural norms in any way. The concept of “harmful use of alcohol” in this context is different from “harmful use of alcohol” as a diagnostic category in the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (WHO, 1992).
- The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) extends the concept of potential years of life lost due to premature death to include equivalent years of “healthy” life lost by virtue of being in states of poor health or disability.
Reason for Alcohol Ban in South Africa