Each and every day, Ghanaians start their day with advertisement about one alcoholic beverage or the other. These adverts are so common that even the youngest child can recite the lines. It is so much so that, if your alarm clock fails to wake you up in the morning, an alcoholic beverage advert will. Research shows that, purposeful production of alcoholic beverages is common in many cultures and often reflects their cultural, sociological and religious peculiarities as well as their geographical conditions. Discovery of Stone Age jugs suggest that, intentionally, fermented beverages existed at least as early as Neolithic period which is about 10,000 BC.
The oldest and most popular alcoholic spirit produced in Ghana and other West African nations by distilling palm wine and sugar cane juice is referred to as "Akpeteshie". Other names for this drink include apio, ogogoro (in Nigeria), sodabi, keley and "kutuku" (in Nzema). The word akpeteshie comes from the Ga language -ape teshie- to wit "they are hiding ," referring to the secretive way in which non-European inhabitants of the then Gold Coast were forced to enjoy the beverage. Nobody can ever dispute the relevance of alcoholic beverages in the society. Studies reveal that moderate amounts of alcohol in the body reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and death by 18 percent. Other medical benefits of alcohol include it being used as a steriliser for medical tools, improved mental health, long-term cognitive functioning and work performance. Intake of alcohol in moderate quantities also helps in mood enhancement, stress reduction and sociability. As there are two sides of every coin, so is alcoholic beverage. As said that too much of everything is bad, excess intake of alcohol is equally bad. It is no secret that alcohol intake can cause major health problems including cirrhosis of the liver. Major injuries and even death can occur through alcohol influenced driving. Excessive alcohol intake can also pose such medical risks as anaemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, seizures, gout and many more.
People have different reasons why they take in alcoholic beverages. Careful scrutiny of the reasons shows that they are more of excuses than reasons. Whilst some drink out of curiosity, others drink for the effect it has on them. One obvious reason why a lot of people are taking to alcohol is because of intense advertisements in the media. Most of these adverts suggest that these alcoholic beverages give sexual stamina to men. This reason is a bait enough to capture the hearts and attention of unsuspecting youth into acute alcohol consumption. According to the Liquor Licensing Act 1970 (Act 331), “Advertisements should neither claim nor suggest that any alcoholic drink can contribute towards sexual success or that can enhance sexual attractiveness.” Clause (a) of the same act says that “advertising of alcoholic drinks should not be directed at persons under 18 years. It is undeniable that about ninety percent of alcoholic beverage adverts in this country are in contravention of this act.
The question that needs to be asked is what the Ghana Standards Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority are doing about this situation? In September 2007, the FDA issued a fiat against advertisements of hard liquor and bitters. In March last year, the FDA followed it up with a ban on popular TV presenter, Kwame Dzokoto from featuring in alcoholic beverage advertisements. That was a laudable step but unfortunately the Authority could not sustain that war. It may be true that advertisements do not target kid directly, but in effect children are the biggest consumers of such adverts because they are the highest patronisers of the electronic media. The FDA and the Ghana Standard Board should wake up from their slumber in order to quench this volatile fire before it consumes us all. They should stop being selective in the application and enforcement of the law. In fact every clause and sub clause of the law must be put to work. The media must also think of the collective good of the society instead of the money they will make from running such adverts on their networks. The glorification and adoration of alcohol is unwarranted and woefully out of place.
BY ELORM KPEDATOR, FROM WOE IN THE KETA MUNICIPALITY AND FINAL YEAR STUDENT OF AKATSI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION.