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New alcohol sale measures welcome

THAT over 46 percent of mental disorders recorded at Chainama Hills Hospital in 2022 were due to alcohol abuse is a clear manifestation of how widespread unregulated sale of alcoholic beverages has become in Zambia. Nowadays, finding people selling different types of alcohol anywhere, including on streets by vendors, seems to have become a norm despite the country having pertinent statutes for controlling the sale of alcohol. Markets which are known to be places where groceries, clothes, food and soft drinks are sold are now full of provisional stalls from which alcohol is sold to anyone, irrespective of age.
Even licensed places like bars and nightclubs are often seen open for business anytime the owners or sales persons feel like. Simply put, there is no adherence to provisions of the Liquor Licensing Act. But thanks to stakeholders who attended a National Alcohol Policy consultative meeting in Lusaka yesterday and made important observations and recommendations in an effort to curb alcohol abuse in the country. After the meeting, Government issued a seven-day ultimatum in which traders who sell alcohol in markets and bus stations should stop the unhealthy trend failure to which they will suffer the consequences of the law. And as enforcers of by-laws on the sale of alcohol in the country, local authorities have been ordered by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Gary Nkombo to immediately annul all home liquor shop licences. “I hereby direct all local authorities to take immediate action in enforcing provisions of the Liquor Licensing Act within their respective jurisdictions. “Local authorities are responsible for ensuring compliance of all licensed vendors with the statutes, and any violations should be met with appropriate legal consequences,” Mr Nkombo stated in a joint statement with other stakeholders.
We welcome the commands to councils and traders who sell alcohol in unauthorised places and urge those responsible for ensuring that the ministerial orders are enforced to do what is required of them. As Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo aptly put it during the consultative meeting, the escalating levels of alcohol consumption in Zambia have become a matter of grave concern. This is because excessive imbibing of alcohol is not only hurtful to individuals or communities, but it also affects short, medium and long-term national development goals. What is even more nerve-racking is the fact that those at the apex of alcohol abuse are young people who are the productive segment of the population that should significantly contribute to national development. Alcohol abuse by youths has several adverse effects. Alcohol affects the transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory. Young people are more likely to have memory ‘blackouts’, where they cannot remember what happened while they were drinking. This puts them at higher risk of accidents, injury, and other harms from alcohol. The effects of alcohol abuse on young people can lead to severe consequences now and later in life, including health and social problems, permanent damage and complications resulting from alcoholism well into adulthood. That is why the directives to regulate the sale of alcohol should strictly be enforced to save our young population from ruin because they are the future leaders of this country. We urge local authorities countrywide to up their game and avoid what we have seen in the past when they swung into action after directives were made but had their momentum wane just a few weeks later.