Plan to Control Alcohol Consumption Revealed

During a House session open to all lawmakers on Friday, discussions on the Alcoholic Control Bill, 2023 unfolded, shedding light on the potential benefits of imposing higher taxes on alcoholic beverages. Representatives from the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance (UAPA) made compelling arguments in favor of this measure.

Dr. Hafsa Lukwata, the head of the division of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, emphasized the urgency of addressing alcohol addiction, particularly as Uganda faces a concerning per capita consumption rate of nearly 10 liters, unrivaled in Africa. She advocated for raising taxes on alcohol to increase prices, thereby restricting access primarily to those already addicted or affluent individuals.

Contrary to arguments from alcohol manufacturers, who contend that increased levies would be ineffective and unfair, Mr. David Kalema, the UAPA chairperson, asserted that higher taxes on alcohol, being an inelastic product, would likely not deter passionate consumers but could discourage young and inexperienced drinkers. He emphasized the potential benefits of such taxation in bolstering public health initiatives and generating revenue.

Additional proposals put forth during the session targeted alcohol providers, with recommendations to ban alcohol sales at petrol stations, restrict consumption in public spaces, and raise the legal drinking age to 21. Dr. Lukwata underscored the importance of discouraging alcohol consumption among young people and cautioned against normalizing its use.

Furthermore, health officials advocated for mandatory health labeling on alcoholic beverages to inform consumers about associated risks and calorie content, aiming to reduce alcohol-related fatalities and hospitalizations.

Despite the significance of the Parliamentary Health Committee's input, only a few members were present, prompting concerns about the politicization of the bill. Lawmakers expressed apprehension about supporting measures that could alienate constituents reliant on alcohol for livelihoods and cultural practices.

The proposed Alcoholic Control Bill, 2023 seeks to repeal outdated legislation from the 1960s and aims to regulate alcohol sales, promotion, and consumption more comprehensively. Modeled after previous unsuccessful attempts, the bill prioritizes measures to combat addiction, raise awareness about alcohol-related harm, and provide support for rehabilitation and treatment programs.

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