Uganda Enforces Higher Legal Drinking Age: Transition from 18 to 21 in a Bid to Curb Alcohol Consumption

Uganda Enforces Higher Legal Drinking Age: Transition from 18 to 21 in a Bid to Curb Alcohol Consumption

With the objective to combat the proliferating issues associated with alcohol consumption, the Ugandan government has recently publicized its intentions to enforce a policy that was agreed upon previously, which involves elevating the legal age for alcohol consumption from 18 to 21 years. This strategic initiative was announced by the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Hafsa Lukwata, demonstrating the government’s commitment to promoting public health and social welfare.

Dr. Lukwata addressed this issue at the Second National Secondary Schools Prefects Conference. This important event was facilitated by the Drugs Hapana Initiative, an influential NGO, in collaboration with Butabika National Referral Hospital, Uganda’s premier mental health facility, and CBS FM radio. The conference, held at Hotel Africana in Kampala on June 22, focused on the theme “Stand Against Drug Abuse”, illustrating the nation’s stance against the problems related to substance misuse.

The Ugandan government’s strategic plan to amplify the legal drinking age to 21 forms part of a larger policy that was sanctioned by the Cabinet in November 2019, targeting the control and regulation of alcohol consumption and sale. However, despite its formal approval, the policy has yet to see the light of implementation. Other key elements within this policy encompass licensing establishments for alcohol sales and defining permissible hours for alcohol consumption.

Healthcare professionals in the country express a profound belief that the enforcement of this policy can provide a solid framework for devising interventions aimed at ensuring the safe production, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Furthermore, it will aid in managing the problems related to alcohol consumption more effectively.

According to data procured by the health ministry, alcohol consumption begins alarmingly early, around the age of 14, particularly in regions where sugarcane production is predominant. As a consequence, numerous young individuals fall prey to alcohol addiction at an early age and eventually become victims of preventable diseases such as kidney or liver failure.

An eye-opening statistic from the health ministry reveals that individuals aged 15 and above consume an average of 9.8 liters of alcohol per year, significantly surpassing the African continent’s average consumption rate of 6 liters. This glaring difference of 3.6 liters highlights the urgency for action to curtail the impact of alcohol consumption on public health in Uganda.

However, the journey toward policy enforcement and its integration into society is potentially lengthy. Dr. Lukwata has previously asserted that for the policy to produce long-lasting effects on Uganda’s drinking problem, it requires backing by law and sufficient financing for its effective implementation.

In 2021, Dr. David Kalema, the chairperson of the Uganda Alcohol Alliance and the Executive Director of Hope and Beyond Rehabilitation Center, emphasized their focus on raising public and parliamentary awareness about the policy.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Ugandan government, advocates for policy measures to control alcohol accessibility. Suggestions include domestic taxation to increase alcohol prices and stricter advertising standards to control alcohol promotions. Monitoring these standards is delegated to the Uganda Communications Commission.

WHO underscores the mounting burden Africa faces due to harmful alcohol consumption. It states that alcohol use intensifies the risks associated with numerous health conditions, from STIs such as HPV and HIV to severe conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, it contributes to socio-economic problems such as road accidents, domestic violence, and reduced labor productivity.

It’s crucial to note that the decision to raise the legal drinking age was taken after meticulous consultation with multiple stakeholders, including healthcare providers, law enforcement officials, and community leaders. This shows the commitment and collective efforts of various sectors in Uganda in battling the pervasive issue of alcohol consumption.

Leave a reply