SA’s alcohol bans have been super controversial. But anecdotal evidence when they kicked in showed that trauma cases dropped during the bans, freeing up much-needed hospital beds and health worker capacity.
Alcohol industry bodies disagreed, publishing their own study that found no evidence the drop in deaths was due to the ban.
But a newly-released study proves them wrong.
The Medical Research Council worked with UCT actuaries on the rigorous study, looking at the period from the end of December 2019 to April 2021. Lead author Professor Tom Moultrie says the findings show a SIGNIFICANT decrease in unnatural deaths related to trauma injuries – people dying in car crashes, suicide and murders – when the sale of alcohol was banned.
Such deaths were about 50% lower than expected during the Level 5 hard lockdown from March to May 2020, and 26% lower than expected when the sale of alcohol was banned with curfews of between four and seven hours. The correlation is pretty clear.
Covid aside, this is startling. It looks like our country has a real problem with alcohol. Still, the multibillion-rand industry is gearing up for a legal challenge, sparked by the latest alcohol ban.
Alcohol sales are an important source of tax revenue, and banning them entirely isn’t the answer – as the US’s disastrous history with prohibition showed us. But there’s a deeper societal ill here we need to reckon with. Alcohol is literally killing South Africans.