Studies conducted among urban and rural adolescents showed that alcohol availability and fun marketing made consumption of booze attractive to the South Africa’s youth.
This was revealed at a session on ‘alcoholic availability, promotion and affordability on young people’s sexuality and HIV risk’ at the 8th South African Aids Conference in Durban on Tuesday.
“Research found that drinking, even ‘binge drinking’ is generally a social norm and was reinforced by advertising and pricing and sales,” said Lebohang Letsela, monitoring and evaluation manager at the Soul City Institute for Social Justice.
“There was also alcohol available through secondary supply — where parents sent minors to purchase alcohol and outlets sold to minors, and boyfriends bought for girlfriends.”
Overall, the study found that rural and urban youth were heavily exposed to persuasive and appealing alcohol advertising in their home environment. Easy access to alcohol and low prices facilitated alcohol misuse and related health risks including risks to their sexual health.
Quotes from a female group of study participants from a rural site included the following: “There is some madness in how we drink it. The thing is we will buy a five litre and you want to finish it in one night. You want to drink all of it, it doesn’t make sense but honestly! They drink to have fun, in fact, they drink to get drunk. The main thing for them is to be drunk.”
Letsela said the study found that transactional sex was used as currency for alcohol and alcohol consumption led to unprotected, unplanned and regretted sex and put young women at risk of sexual assault.
“This study brings community, especially youth voices to policy debates about alcohol control, alcohol advertising, marketing and public health,” according to Letsela.
The study recommended that a shift in focus was needed from individual responsibility to structural factors in addressing alcohol misuse. Alcohol marketing needed to be regulated, the price should be increased and outlet density should be limited.
The study also found:
· A great many alcohol selling outlets are located within a 500m radius of schools
· School-going youth have opportunities to buy alcohol during school hours.
· The use of colour, images and creative slogans make alcohol advertising attractive to youth. Adverts showing young people having fun encourage youth to try different brands and beverages.
· Youth access to taverns is facilitated by promotional activities and pricing including celebrity events, competitions and discounts that include, ‘happy hour’, ‘ladies’ night’ and ‘buy one get one free’.
· Youth reported that they frequently witness and experience alcohol-related sexual health risks in and around taverns in their communities. These include unprotected and unplanned sex, sex that is later regretted and sexual assault, including while travelling home from taverns. These were said to be common experiences in and around taverns and their communities.