Promoters anticipate national policy to regulate alcohol use
Alcoholic brands are major sponsors of entertainment activities locally. For the most part, all alcoholic brands under Red Stripe and J Wray & Nephew are vital to the execution of large music festivals, including carnival in Jamaica and Reggae Sumfest.
But based on the Throne Speech delivered in Parliament last Thursday by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, the Government is in the developmental stages of preparing a national policy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
The main objectives of the policy will be to regulate the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of alcoholic products, strengthen the health response to their harmful use, reduce road traffic accidents as a result of the use of alcohol, and to monitor and evaluate the public health surveillance measures.
Though in its early days, event promoters are anticipating that when the policy is completed, it will have a positive impact on what has already been established through the individual campaigns that the respective events and alcohol brands have implemented to encourage responsible drinking habits.
According to Gyete Ghartey, director of GLK Entertainment, most of the efforts of the brands to communicate responsible alcohol consumption have worked thus far.
“For argument sake, our main sponsors enforce the use of the phrase ‘drink responsibly’, on all promotional platforms. It is actually required at the international level,” Ghartey said. The Mellow Vibes party promoter notes that while adequate information on the policy is not available at this time, it would have to address the issue of alcohol abuse at all levels.
He said, “It is not an issue our events have encountered, where alcohol is given to persons under 18 years old, since the patronage is mature and we also stop selling alcoholic beverages hours before the event is slated to end, and promote drinking water. Those are practices that also require enforcement.”
REGULATION IS NECESSARY
Meanwhile, entertainment pioneer Kamal Bankay, says: “It is necessary to regulate all industries in terms of what they can or cannot do, and who they speak to and who they can’t. Likewise, the industry currently advertises that alcohol is reserved for adults, and anything that is in line with safeguarding that is welcomed by me. However, as a promoter, it is difficult to determine exactly what the regulations and the effects will be, so I await to see the policy.”
Speaking on the subject, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton toldThe Gleaner, “We are in the early stages of developing the policy, currently bringing on board a consultant to draft said policy – the draft will be done and will include significant consultation with various stakeholders. So there are a number of stages to go through before we sign off,” Tufton said.
He added, “A policy is an important part of the fight against non-communicable diseases, and excessive use of alcohol is one of the leading causes of death; the abuse is also a significant contributor to trauma cases (road accidents),” he said.
He said that there are international conventions at the level of the World Health Organization that will act as a guiding principle.
“Alcohol consumption is a part of our culture and it’s not our intention to change that fact, but rather, to discourage and prevent alcohol abuse such as underage drinking and alcohol addiction,” he concluded.