Tavern Tragedy Sparks Drinking Age Debate

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Tragedy struck South Africa this past month as 21 teenagers lost their lives at a tavern in the Eastern Cape. The ages of the deceased have sparked a debate around whether the drinking age in the country should be raised.  

 


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While delivering the eulogy of the 21 teenagers who tragically lost their lives at the Enyobeni Tavern, President Cyril Ramaphosa called into question why underage patrons were served alcohol. 

The youngest victim of the Enyobeni tavern tragedy was just 13 years old. He explained that previous tragedies where people have lost their lives all involved the selling and serving of alcohol to underage patrons. 

Eight young women died at Osi's tavern in Khayelitsha in 2015, while the Throb nightclub disaster in Durban in 2000 resulted in the death of 13 children and 100 recorded injuries. This does not include other incidents where people have been injured. 

We are losing our future generation to the scourge of underage drinking. - President Cyril Ramaphosa

The legal drinking age in South Africa is 18 years old. Alcohol also may not be sold or served to anyone under the age of 18. 

Alcohol Policy Alliance's Executive Director, Maurice Smithers believes the alcohol laws in South Africa need to be revamped. This would include implementing the Liquor Amendment Bill. 

They explained that pressure from the liquor industry and interests within the government may have prevented the Liquor Amendment Bill from being passed in parliament. The bill would change the alcohol sales landscape in South Africa. 

Some key aspects of the liquor amendment bill include:

  • Increasing the drinking age to 21 years;
  • The introduction of a 100-metre radius limitation of trade around educational and religious institutions;
  • Banning of any alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media;
  • The introduction of a new liability clause for alcohol-sellers.

I think the country at large is wanting something to be done but the problem is up until now the loudest voices are those who have an interest in seeing alcohol continue to be sold.  - Maurice Smithers

They add that people in the liquor industry can't regulate themselves as regulation will directly impact their profits. Smithers says the government must pass legislation and put systems in place to empower people to exercise their legal right to someone obtaining a liquor licence.

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