NAMIBIA – The government of Namibia is drafting a law that could potentially make the advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship of alcoholic beverages in Namibia illegal.
The draft bill, seen by The Namibian and titled ‘The Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use’, aims to curb the negative impacts of certain substances, among other things.
The proposed law will therefore ban the advertisement and promotion of highly addictive and illegal narcotic drugs that affect mental performance, and cause changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior. By implication, this will include commercially produced alcoholic beverages.
Among the many objectives of the draft bill, is a proposal to establish a National Drug Control Commission (NDRC) and regional substance use control forums, which would be tasked with registering all service providers – producers, importers and retailers who distribute substances targeted under the proposed law.
The NDRC will also establish the administrative and regulatory framework within which service providers must provide their services. It will further provide for a comprehensive national response to combat the use of substances, and to reduce the demand for and harm caused by substance use.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services, which is leading the process to draft this bill, engaged stakeholders and affected industries to submit inputs between May and September this year.
Yvonne Dausab , the Minister of justice, informed that the bill is yet to be submitted to the Cabinet, or to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for consideration. She said the bill has undergone various changes, which could eventually affect the form of the proposed law.
The Self-Regulating Alcohol Industry Forum (SAIF), an association of commercial alcohol producers, has however, raised concerns over some parts of the draft bill – especially over sections curtailing the advertisement and promotion of their products.
Major alcoholic beverage producers, such as the Namibia Breweries Limited and Camelthorn, are members of this association. SAIF’s coordinator, Horst Heimstadt, said the proposed law could have a far-reaching negative impact on the alcohol and advertising industry. He took issue with the government grouping commercially produced alcohol and illegal substances together.
He said should the government proceed to enact the concerned bill in its current format, various sectors, such as sport and youth development, which depend on sponsorships and other support from alcohol producers and distributors could be heavily affected.
“The proposed bill would have detrimental consequences for the entire alcohol industry and all the affiliated organizations, as it proposes to prohibit any brand-related sponsorships, all advertising, and any special deals on alcoholic beverages.”
Horst said the alcohol industry was already doing well with its public campaigns to curb alcohol abuse.
“Alcohol abuse is devastating to the minority of Namibians, that is why industry players have taken the responsibility to encourage responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages very seriously. While the formal industry, through SAIF and individual organizations, has over the years contributed substantially in addressing issues such as driving under the influence of alcohol, marketing practices, underage drinking, and the general promotion of the responsible use of alcohol, there is a collective understanding within the industry that we need to do more.”
Under the draft bill, the publication, display, and broadcast of advertisements relating to the use of the substances, including the use of substance trademarks, logos, brand names, or company names used on substances or substance containers, will be banned for entities or individuals who are not retailers of substances or substance products, indicated by a notice at points of sale.
Permissible advertisements, broadcasts, or promotions for such substances should only indicate the availability of substances or substance products, and the price of substances or substance products as regulated by any other legislation relating to the sale of goods in Namibia.
The use of substance trademarks, logos, brand names, or company names on substance products for the purposes of advertising “any organization, service activity or event” will also be banned under the draft law.