Alcohol is the Leading Cause of Preventable Death and Disability
Vision for Alternative Development (VALD); a non-governmental organization has commended the bold and courageous announcement made by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to ban alcohol advertisement in Ghana from January, 2018.
“While we are of the view that this action is long overdue, we still welcome this directive as an effective means to reducing the exposure and alcohol use especially among children,” a statement from VALD noted.
It said uncontrolled advertisement of alcoholic beverages as the case in Ghana currently, is exposing children and young ones to alcohol and this is affecting their development and growth while influencing them to engage in underage drinking and sexual activities.
“We also wish to urge the FDA to further reexamine the content of some of the advertisements before they are aired, this is because most of them are appealing and attractive to kids.
“Only few programmes are aired on TV and radio today without adverts on alcoholic beverages including those viewed and listened to by children. We must be mindful that our kids who are the future generations are glued to TV every day from morning to evening; remember all schools are on vacation now,” the statement further noted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries increase the legal age of drinking and purchasing of alcoholic beverages. If before the ages of 25 years, the human brain is still undergoing development, then there is the need to strictly regulate the alcohol industries to protect the youth.
“Many countries have increased the drinking age to 21. We recommend same for Ghana. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that governs judgment and decision-making, and it is the last part of the brain to develop. This amongst other reasons why people less than 25 years old are more prone to risk-taking behaviours like the use of psychoactive substances leading to addiction. This also explains why persons 25 years and below are particularly vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, and why exposure to alcohol and other psychoactive drugs before this critical time of their lives may cause future substance use issue.
“Some countries, such as France, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Kenya have banned alcohol advertising on television and billboards, we therefore urge FDA to include billboards.
“Self-regulation promoted by the alcohol industry as a sufficient means of regulating alcohol marketing activities does not work. The evidence clearly suggests that the guidelines of self-regulation of alcohol are violated, resulting in excessive alcohol advertisement that is harmful to youth and others,” it stated.
The European courts has declared that restrictions on alcohol marketing are proportional to the benefits to public health, however, attempts by countries to restrict alcohol advertising and marketing activities have been opposed vehemently by the alcohol industry.
“Government, policy and decision makers must leave a legacy that put children, the youth and future generation first and not to jeopardize their future with devastating heath consequences- they will certainly not forgive us” says Issah Ali, the Executive Director, Vision for Alternative Development.
VALD also urged the Ministry of Health to urgently take active interest in the development of the Alcohol Regulation to effectively regulate the alcoholic beverages industry.
The alcohol regulations when passed will reduce disease burden on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as a whole. The epidemic that awaits us is huge if we don’t take action now.