The Liquor Amendment Bill, first made public in 2016, is reportedly being reconsidered by Cabinet, because of the Covid-19 pandemic – and extending the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 is reportedly under consideration.

As previously reported in Legalbrief Today, the draft Bill proposes several changes, including the introduction of a 500-metre radius limitation of trade around educational and religious institutions; banning alcohol advertising on billboards placed less than 100 metres away from junctions, street corners and traffic circles; and introducing a new liability clause for alcohol traders.

According to Business Insider, Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is in favour of the proposals. "All of these I consider to be useful medium to long-term tools to reduce SA’s high rate of alcohol consumption to be considered by the legislature in due course."

A TimesLIVE report notes that the director of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (Saapa), Maurice Smithers, said some of the changes were being considered on a permanent basis by policymakers. Speaking on Cape Talk, Smithers said the proposals will fundamentally change how alcohol is seen and consumed in the country. He said extending the drinking age to 21 would be beneficial to promote moderate and safe drinking.

"The human brain continues to develop up to age 22. It makes sense to delay drinking as long as possible,’ said Smithers. "A lot of children hit university at 18 and are exposed to alcohol and it has quite a damaging effect on them and their progress through university."

According to Saapa, only 31% of people in SA aged 15 and above drink alcohol, but "most of them drink heavily and in a way that is harmful to themselves and others."

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