Growing calls to end underage liquor consumption
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Pretoria - In South Africa, substance use generally starts during the teenage years, and, in some instances, as early as 10 years old.
And according to Aware.Org, 50% of teenagers have consumed alcohol.
Although liquor traders are not allowed to sell alcohol to children, underage customers have found ways to get alcohol and get intoxicated.
South African Liquors Traders’ Association chairperson Jones Mnisi said their role was to teach their members or traders about compliance and responsible drinking.
"Those who are selling alcohol to underage customers either do not attend the association's meetings, or do not belong to any forum or association.
"We have plans on how to stop those who are not complying with the trading conditions, but we need all the stakeholders to help us.“
Mnisi said there were programmes in the association to raise awareness about underage drinking, but they needed the support of the suppliers to be able to conduct those programmes.
Girls and Boys Town South Africa is also against underage drinking, and is working together with various organisations to combat the crisis.
The organisation's CEO, Lee Loynes, said they were concerned about people not fully understanding the role they played in enabling underage drinking.
“Many people do not realise the impact that underage drinking has on a child or society at large. Parents, adults, and caregivers unintentionally encourage underage drinking through glamorising it, or by sending children to buy alcohol or allowing them to take ”just a little sip“.
“Speaking about alcohol has become normal, and there has been a desensitisation to its effect, which has left our children vulnerable,” said Loynes.
Two underage drinkers, aged 16 and 17, said they drank, but only occasionally.
The 16-year-old said he started drinking when he was in primary school, and when asked about the dangers of drinking alcohol, he said he did not know of any.
The high school pupils said obtaining alcohol was easy because those selling it needed money.
"Peer pressure is the reason we drink alcohol. Our other friends are the ones who bring the alcohol, we never used our own money to buy alcohol," they said.