You will need to be 21 to drink

But founder of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, Caro Smit, has given a big thumbs up to the proposed changes.

But founder of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, Caro Smit, has given a big thumbs up to the proposed changes.

Published May 26, 2015


 Cape Town - The government wants to ban people under 21 from drinking alcohol. The current legal drinking age is 18.

 The Department of Trade and Industry (DTi) published the National Liquor Policy for comment in the Government Gazette last week. Under the proposed new policy, the legal drinking age would be raised from 18 to 21 years.

The DTi has also called for stricter controls when it comes to selling and buying alcohol.

It says liquor is associated with a wide range of medical conditions, including cirrhosis, cancers of the tongue, mouth and throat, as well as depression. This is in addition to the physical and emotional harm caused by people under the influence of liquor.

The DTi’s chief director of policy and legislation, MacDonald Netshitenzhe, said further research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that a quarter of the accidents in which people needed to be hospitalised were caused by drivers under the age of 21.

“People older than 21 are mature enough to handle alcohol, but many times those under the age of 21 years will go over the legal limit when they drive, and are also more likely to speed,” he said.

Under the new policy, people selling alcohol must verify the ages of buyers, if they look younger than 21, by asking for an ID document, drivers licence or passport.

Veliswa Poni, chairperson of the Western Cape Shebeen Association, said increasing the age limit to 21 would hit businesses hard because they would lose potential customers.

 Poni said the age limit means the government would determine that adults between 18 and 21 cannot drink, but felt adults should be able to make their own decisions.

 She said it was not just young people who were involved in violent fights.

“Elderly people also get involved in violence when they drink too much,” she said.

“This is not a solution. We will have to ask people to bring their IDs with when they come to our businesses and they will lose them because they will be intoxicated,” she said.

National Health Department spokesperson Joe Maila said the department welcomed the proposal as it would lessen the impact of alcohol, one of the biggest causes of non-communicable diseases.

“Young people under the age of 21 who are under the influence of alcohol will take bigger risks,” he said.

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Transport Byron La Hoe said 73 drivers under the age of 30 were killed on Western Cape roads last year, 10 under the age of 21.

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Cape Times

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