Government has welcomed the proposed Alcohol Drinks Control Bill 2016, saying it will help reduce excessive alcohol consumption in the country. The Bill, a private members' initiative, spearheaded by the Mukono Municipality MP, Ms Betty Nambooze, seeks to consolidate all alcoholic-related laws and sets tougher sanctions on alcohol consumption.
The principal medical officer of mental health and control of substance abuse at the Health ministry, Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, said the Bill, if passed into law, will reduce government expenditure on alcohol-related diseases.
"We are soon tabling an Alcohol Control Policy. This policy directs on the consumption of alcohol and how government could control it. The proposed Bill is, therefore, timely," Dr Ndyanabangi said. She was speaking during the Alcohol Drinks Control Bill consultative workshop organised by the Health ministry in Kampala last Friday.
Commenting about the Bill, the Health ministry permanent secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago, told Daily Monitor on phone yesterday that the Bill is a good initiative. "It's a good Bill but we will look at it and see what is required and what must be done," he said.
The Bill's contents
The draft Bill criminalises the sale or consumption of alcohol before 5pm or after 1am and violators risk a Shs2 million fine or one-year jail term or both.
It also provides that a retailer cannot sue to recover any debt extended to a consumer of alcohol unless the alcohol is served to a resident hotel, inn or lodge guest. This means that bar owners would incur losses unless patrons pay up before leaving the service point.
The Bill also imposes a prison sentence of 10 years or a fine of Shs20 million or both for a person found guilty of selling alcohol to persons below the age of 18 or even allowing an underage person to access premises where alcohol is stored, sold or consumed. Dr Ndyanabangi noted that alcohol prices should be hiked to limit people from buying it.
"Instead of investing in things that would improve their health, people are heavily spending on alcohol which is a killer. We need to liaise with MPs to ensure the Bill is passed into law," she said.
The chairperson Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance, Mr David Kalema, urged civil society organisations to join the struggle against excessive alcohol consumption.