Unjust to prevent young adults from drinking responsibly until they turn 21
May 10 2017
18 – Old enough to marry but not to drink the champagne toast!
The DTI’s draft National Liquor Policy (NLP) proposes that the minimum legal age at which alcohol can be purchased and consumed should be raised from 18 to 21 years. People mature enough to vote, marry whoever they want, choose careers and beliefs, drive cars, enter into contracts, will not be allowed to drink with friends or at a meal or even their wedding. Young people between 18 and 21 years who currently drink legally in licensed premises or buy alcohol in a shop will have to stop doing so or become criminals overnight.
Raising the legal age will merely push under-age binge drinking into less controlled environments, leading to more health and life-endangering behaviour among young people. Environments where they could be surrounded by seasoned seniors who can set a good example and watch them for safety reasons will be denied them.
A 21 year age limit is one of five key proposals* in the draft NLP which violate the rights of an individual’s freedom and return South Africa’s liquor laws to apartheid era racism and discrimination against poorer citizens. The Free Market Foundation (FMF) submits that the proposals have unintended consequences and should be reconsidered. The window for comment closes on August 13.
FMF executive director, Leon Louw, said, “The government obviously thinks a person is mature enough to vote for the ANC but not to buy a drink in a bar. This means a soccer team can play a hard game together but the under 21s will not be allowed to join their team mates in the bar for a beer and match post mortem”.
The FMF submits that it would be anomalous if young people are allowed to make all the big decisions in life but cannot choose to have a drink with a meal or a mate. The current drinking age of 18 has logic and follows international thinking that at 18 a person has reached the age of reason and maturity.
All well-meaning people would want to imbue youngsters with a responsible attitude to drinking at an early age. If the right to consume liquor is deferred to the age of 21, the introduction of responsible behaviour is unwisely delayed.
“In addition, an age limit of 21 will never be properly enforced,” said Louw.
“This proposal will drive youngsters between the ages of 18 and 21 underground to drink illicitly in more dangerous circumstances with less emphasis on responsible drinking. Unlike respectable establishments serving alcohol legally, where responsible drinking is an encouraged culture, young adults will be forced into buying alcohol illegally at more unsavoury establishments”.
This was demonstrated during apartheid when alcohol was prohibited to black South Africans and illegal shebeens became the norm. Alcohol in shebeens was often brewed illicitly and mixed with methylated spirits.
The NLP talks about “education and awareness” which the FMF fully supports as the way forward for a free and open society with personal responsibility. Instead, as with banning smoking in public places and other draconian measures against tobacco use, the government is removing freedoms by stealth in the guise of safeguarding the nation’s health. Once lost, individual freedoms cannot easily be regained. These proposals need to be resisted before more freedoms are taken away while the nation sleep-walks into the nanny state.