Govt. zeros in on alcohol abuse

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Former A.G.: Aumua Ming Leung Wai and Current A.G.: Lemalu Herman Retzlaff.

Former A.G.: Aumua Ming Leung Wai and Current A.G.: Lemalu Herman Retzlaff. (Photo: Samoa Observer / File)

The Attorney Generals’ Office is on the verge of finalising the Alcohol Control Bill.

The new legislation is designed to tackle the growing threat posed by the abusive use of alcohol and unlawful production of liquor in Samoa 

“The need for reform of laws relating to alcohol is aimed at reducing harm such as criminal offending where alcohol is a significant contributory factor and is aligned with the Strategy for the Development of Samoa 2012-2016 for an improved quality of life for all,” said the Samoa Law Reform Commission (S.L.R.C) in its report to Cabinet.

 “It also supports the strategic direction of the Law and Justice Sector Plan 2012-2016 with focus on enabling a safe and stable Samoa, and one of the key Sector goals, i.e. community safety.”

The assessment was initially called by then Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai in 2013 “to review laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol with the objective of reducing the harm caused by alcohol in Samoa and to make recommendations for reform.”

And after consultation with the stakeholders including public forums in Savai’i and Upolu coupled by audible concerns from the Judiciary Branch, the S.L.R.C in its findings noted that “Alcohol related harm has been increasing exponentially over the years and members of the judiciary have expressed grave concern over the prevalence of alcohol in the commission of offences, as well as recidivism among offenders brought before them. 

“They (judiciary) also noted the increasing rates of serious violent offending fuelled by cheap alcohol such as fagumaso.”

And in its recommendation endorsed by Cabinet, the Commission has not only recommended greater regulation of the alcohol industry but has also recommended the implementation of alcohol education and awareness programs and policy measures as well as the strengthening of existing programmes.

One recommendation is to improve criteria for “a license to manufacture alcohol including the verification of the safety of the formulae or the brewing methods and minimum qualifications of a brew master.” 

The legal age to purchase alcohol is retained at 21 years old however, the Commission is calling for the excise tax on alcohol to be revised as well as excise tax brackets. 

For example the percentage of increase of excise tax of a tax bracket should correspond with the percentage of increase of the content of alcohol for that tax bracket.

Additionally, the maximum price for alcohol should also be removed from the General Price Order.  The revision is to curtail the sale of cheap alcohol.

To that effect the S.L.R.C is recommending the Alcohol Control bill, prompted as a result of increase in alcohol related crimes, accidents and road fatalities.

Consequently data from the Accident Compensation Corporation is a telling story.

Contained in the Commissions’ are statistics from the A.C.C detailing the number of fatal accidents related to the consumption for alcohol.

From 2009 to 2013 - 894 alcohol related claims were filed with the A.C.C.

And from that data;

- 63 out of 894 applications for compensation have been heard or considered by A.C.C in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor;

- 26 out of 1027 accidents were reported in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor resulting in death, where dependents are entitled to compensation;

- 13 out of 894 accidents were reported in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor resulting in permanent work disability.

Although the figures fluctuate between the years, there is a clear significant increase from 2009 to 2013, of claims concerning accidents, disability and death where alcohol is a contributing factor.

Parliament has also been looking into present legislations targeting the processing of local liquor.

One of the main concerns by the lawmakers is none compliance by the local manufacturers in complying with the alcohol content of liquor processed locally.

And at the moment the Attorney General’s Office is tasked with finalizing the Alcohol Control Bill to be tabled in parliament in the coming sessions.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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