At the end of February, South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his latest budget speech…
In his budget speech, the minister increased a number of “sin taxes” including an 8% increase on alcohol and tobacco.
They are as follows:
- a 340ml can of beer or cider will cost an extra 14c
- a 750ml bottle of wine will cost an extra 26c
- a 750ml bottle of sparkling wine an extra 86c
- a bottle of 750 ml spirits, including whisky, gin or vodka, will increase by R5.50
- a packet of 20 cigarettes will be an extra R1.39c
- 25 grams of piped tobacco will cost an extra 47c
- And a 23 gram cigar will be R7.71 more expensive
The minister highlighted the negative social effects of alcohol – which was made very clear over the recent lockdown periods in South Africa.
“It is clear that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to negative social and health outcomes. Consumers do react to price increases, and higher prices should lead to lower consumption of alcohol products with positive spinoffs,” says Mboweni.
But do increased prices really deter those who are suffering from substance use disorders (SUD)?
All4Women reached out to Adrie Vermeulen, National Director of SANCA – the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence for her expert opinion.
According to Vermeulen, raising the price of alcohol and tobacco can deter people suffering from SUD, but only if other interventions are also implemented.
“It can’t be the only strategy,” says Vermeulen. “One needs to consider public education on safer drinking practices, and educating the public on addiction being a medical condition that affects the functioning of the brain.”
Serious cases may turn to cheaper (risky) options
“From our experience working with addiction for over 60 years, people who have a severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) will become desperate, and can resort to cheaper brands or even home-brew concoctions,” says Vermeulen. “Sin tax or rather health tax is a deterrent for people who are risky or heavy drinkers that don’t have a serious AUD.”
Increase in requests for support over lockdown
Over the course of the various levels of lockdown in South Africa over the last year, SANCA saw an increase in the number of people needing support.
The WhatsApp line received up to 500 messages per day from families living with someone with a problem, or people who were concerned about themselves.
Lockdown also limited access to treatment facilities
“It was a difficult time for our clients because they couldn’t access treatment initially,” says Vermeulen.
“People were also hesitant to join our programmes because of Covid. The families had to step in and although online support groups were available, these were only accessible to a small group of the population.”
“We also had a few admissions of clients that was so desperate that they drank sanitisers that affected their health severely.”
The ban was ‘positive’
The organisation believes that as a whole, the ban on alcohol during lockdown was a ‘positive’ thing as it made many people aware of their dependence on alcohol, and how unhealthy this pattern of dependence was.
“If you were a heavy or risky drinker, you would have cut down, and lengthened your lifespan,” says Vermeulen.
What are some of the signs of someone suffering from SUD?
There are criteria used in the assessment of a person that used substances and we look at four main categories:
- Are you in control of the use
- Are you using more than what you intended?
- How does it affect your responsibilities at home, work or school?
- Are you placing yourself in risky situations?
- Are you using although there are negative consequences?
- Do you use more to get the same effect?
- Are you using something stronger?
- Do you have a tolerance that’s build up?
- Do you experience any withdrawal symptoms, physically or psychologically?
- Are you able to cut down?
- Have other people told you to cut down or that they are worried about you?
Where can individuals (or their families) turn to for help?
- Please visit sancanational.info for the closest centre to you.
- WhatsApp 0765351701 or during office hours 0118923829.
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