For our sobriety, legally ban alcohol promotion

Edited by Admin
For our sobriety, legally ban alcohol promotion

Yes, alcohol may not be the only legally recognized substance taking away your sobriety, but the fact that 12.6 million Ugandans continue to drink alcohol and that 110.6M liters were consumed in the year of the study according to Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance, is an issue deserving national debate.


The aforementioned Report was launched at the Uganda Alcohol Policy Conference of 2022 which was officiated by the state minister for Primary Health Care, Hon. Margret Muhanga who is my constituency MP for North Division in Fort Portal Tourism City.

Whilst the prevalence of alcohol use in Uganda is still high, with an estimated 10% of the population having an alcohol-use-related disorder, Males, older individuals, residents in northern, western, and central Uganda, and individuals of a particular ethnic background are more likely to be medium- to high-end alcohol users. Public health interventions for reducing the levels of alcohol use need to take the mentioned population’s characteristics into consideration (Ndugwa and Ndyanabangi et al , 2016). 

As the prevalence levels soar, I speak out of weak laws, regulations or standards, as enablers for the wasting away of young adults without government suspecting the aggressive Alcohol industry marketing tactics to persons of all age ranges.


Uganda Broadcasting Corporation hosts a weekly talk show on Wednesday’s called “Behind the Headlines”. The popular talk show host is Mr. Charles Odongtho. On the 15th of February 2023, the Alcohol control Bill was the topical issue. The Bill’s sponsor, Hon. Sarah Opendi was joined by the Alcohol industry, and other panelists that included Counsel Sarah Birete, Dr. Ssali Sarah and the state minister for national Guidance, Hon. Godfrey kabyanga. The show roundly agreed that alcohol must be strongly regulated while a few cynics claimed that low of the lack of enforcement posted prosecution success rate and that with this enactment which ought not be the most pressing issue for parliament to address, shall be business as usual.  Among others, the MP wants drinking time at any time of day, criminalized.


“Alcohol robs young people, their families, and societies of their lives and potential. Yet despite the clear risks to health, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than for other psychoactive products. Better, well enforced, and more consistent regulation of alcohol marketing would both save and improve young lives across the world” says Dr Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

Whereas advertising of alcohol products in Uganda is not an illegal practice, the legal adage of no conduct constitutes a crime has to a great measure been mocked.

Be that as it may, wherever you look, the alcoholic industry is advertising alcoholic drinks to Ugandans in all manner of ways. And compounded with whether it is on a cultural, religious or government function; alcoholic volumes outcompete water which when not polluted, is the healthiest but a neglected beverage, save for quenching thirst, non-alcoholics have taken on of late to energy drinks- also another nonregulated.  


These energy drinks on Uganda’s market include but are not limited to the following names: sting, power horse, rock boom, kokoliloko, punch to mention but a few. The choice of names lay claims to bolster instant energy or sustaining bedroom affairs for those less interested or unable to naturally go on.  


While beers manifest in bottled glasses, anecdotal information indicates after heavy rainfall, plastic bottles in water channels of brands without clear distinction of if its whiskey, spirits, wines or beers. A few names that come to mind are: Enguli, Kasese, walagi, liralira, akaliga, entale, embogo which are either under or overrated. This confusion if resolved can help in streamlining tax levies and related nontax revenues collected using the Excise duty, value Added and like fiscal policies. 


After all, the cynics will conclude, we’re an alcoholic country: condemning voices cannot match to those of drunkards.

Undeniably, an idle mind could be a workshop of the devil as unemployment could rank first as cause of alcoholism; aggressive marketing has enlisted too many to count. The tactics the alcohol industry employs although not conclusive include: flavoring, adding fruits to cocktails, adopting nature loved colors and less claims of alcoholic content manipulations, have had many would not have been drinkers.


Alcohol industry caricatures intellectual rights could be abused through government regulatory control; this in itself confirms that Alcohol industry abhors regulations by governments. Previously, in strict and most liberalized democracies where now its most compliant, alcohol industry adopted scapegoats to elude regulation including using a litigious character. This tactic in the less developed countries as is ours, derails implementation and stagnates compliance thus resulting into poor prosecution success rate. On strong authority, I can attest, it's not always that law enforcers are few, reluctant, or the laws are unenforceable, this is an industry strategy.


To that end, the alcohol industry opportunistically invests in designing billboards, painting perimeter walls surrounding strategic hot spots like government buildings, police stations, bridges, stadiums with adverts to charm out the disinterested and non-suspecting members of the public. This emboldens me to ask of government to reject like offers because they don’t measure up to the value of legitimacy in the money obtained from the Alcohol Industry.


Be that as it may, aggressive marketing has not spared the national football or rugby teams. To that flavor, on a regular, football fans are consumers of Alcohol adverts and homes are not any the better at prime news time by the same aggression, as marketing of alcoholic products’ haunts places and or platforms frequented by Children.


While on site seeing spree of Billboards such as one at Kira Rd police or Kibuye police stations any researcher ought to be interested and academic institutions are not spared, for a distance apart, an advert for alcohol lingers. The way to the Airport makes you run out of count of fingers of the propensity of alcohol advertisements outmatching those for Telecom companies of banking institutions.


Not all is lost. Hon. Kamara, the chairperson for the Parliamentary Forum for Non-Communicable Diseases, implored with success the Chairperson to Uganda’s Parliamentary Health committee who ruled that the committee’s sessions shall not offer sodas except water- going forward. He said: displaying like products encourages dangerous consumption levels.


The 22nd day’s Daily Monitor Newspaper of August 2022 carried a socially unacceptable story: “14 people die after drinking potent gin”. It was reported therein that the death toll started occurring on Friday until Sunday morning, leaving several other victims hospitalized.


In the words of Nelson Mandela: there is no person who is too useless, at least, they can be used as a bad example.  Drunkards are that bad example, good for young audiences to learn to be sober. On the contrary, the alcohol industry defeats the purpose as it uses pictures of non-drunkards, as government has no space on health messaging, let it pick a leaf from Graphic Health warnings on the cigarette packs. Thanks to the Tobacco Control regulations of 2019 that compels the tobacco industry to conform to the health warnings.

To mitigate death, Government cannot afford to ignore any more but enact enabling laws that bans alcohol advertising sponsorship and promotion.


While deaths from alcohol, used to always happen after festive seasons (Christmas, Easter, Happy New Year and or independence celebrations); alcohol drink-ups are now a daily occurrence, leaving no gender, age or economically constrained behind.  Drinking binges, have gone from one for the road, a round, a bucket to now a crate offering, thanks to the COVID19 of staying or working from home.


To curb harmful alcohol use, governments committed to reducing consumption of alcohol to 10% by 2025 and to 20% by 2030 (in comparison with 2010 levels). To achieve this, Uganda will need to adopt and implement effective, evidence-based policies and programs to protect individuals, families, and communities.  


Another effective driver for alcoholism is e-sports, including competitive gaming events, as another opportunity to sponsor events and increase brand recognition and international sales has been exploited by the alcoholic industry. In addition is adding to product placement in movies and serials, many of which are streamed on international subscription channels that find their way to Ugandans.


“While most countries have some form of regulation for alcohol marketing in traditional media, almost half have no regulation in place for Internet which is at 48% yet social media is at 47% marketing of alcohol as was found by the World Health Organization in 2018.


For our sobriety, Isn’t Uganda ripe for a law that comprehensively bans alcohol advertising, promotion sponsorship?

(The book "FROM JOHN: How alcohol addiction destroys lives, by Tara Bianca is highly recommended reading. - Ed)

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