The harmful use of alcohol causes substantial health, social and economic burdens for society. It is among the leading risk factors for disease burden in populations worldwide. South Africa is ranked as one of the top 20 biggest drinking nations according to a statistical update from the World Health Organisation (WHO) tracking alcohol consumption across 194 countries. In South Africa the tangible financial cost of harmful alcohol consumption amounts to approximately R37.9 billion annually, including the cost of health care, crime and social welfare, alcohol treatment and prevention, and road traffic accidents (from the Western Cape Government White Paper on Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction).
In the Western Cape, the link between alcohol and crime and violence is particularly prominent. Alcohol is linked to 50% of murders in the Province. Of the total number of alcohol-attributable deaths, 32.0% are from unintentional injuries, and 13.7% are from intentional injuries. Cheap products target people experiencing poor socio-economic conditions, and risky drinking patterns directly correlate with low-income patterns.
Within communities, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities are most vulnerable and often the victims of violence as a result of the abuse of liquor. Under-age drinking, binge drinking and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) are prevalent and have a significant negative impact on wellbeing and access to opportunities.