Will Raising The Drinking Age Solve Underage Alcohol Abuse?



Earlier this year, tragedy struck in the Eastern Cape when 21 teenagers lost their lives at a tavern. This, along with tavern shootings, sparked debate around alcohol abuse in the country and whether the legal drinking age should be raised.




While delivering the eulogy for the 21 teenagers who tragically lost their lives at the Enyobeni Tavern, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa is losing its future generation to the scourge of underage drinking. 

The current 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. The Enyobeni Tragedy sparked debate around whether or not the drinking age should be raised in the country. 

New Lovelife Trust CEO, Dr. Linda Ncube-Nkomo says it's not the legislation that is the issue but rather the lack of enforcement of the current legislation by businesses. This, as many of the patrons who lost their lives at the Enyobeni Tavern were in fact under the age of 18 years old.

They say there is no guarantee that if the Liquor Amendment Bill is implemented that the crises of underage drinking will be solved. This bill is viewed as a solution to curb underage drinking in South Africa as it would see the legal drinking age raised to 21 years old. 

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.

Ncube-Nkomo says the debate around underage drinking should seek to understand our relationship with alcohol and determine whether we use alcohol or weed to abuse it. 

This comes as adults unconsciously normalise the use and purchasing of alcohol to young people. They say that introspection must take place before underage drinking is put under the spotlight. 

How did we get to a point where young people can access taverns, drink alcohol without any adults raising an alarm around the issue? Those are really the debates that we should be having rather than talking about raising the age limit.

Ncube-Nkomo says that responsibility should fall onto the individuals with the liquor licence to ensure that the current laws are respected. This as adults are allowing children to enter clubs and taverns to purchase and consume alcohol. They say that people must at least produce an ID before entering the premises where alcohol is being served. 




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