, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22- The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) Authority has downplayed fears that the enactment of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2009 will lead to the blatant consumption and production of high-risk alcoholic substances.
The Authority\\\’s Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Kimani said on Sunday that instead the Bill, which legalises the distillation of chang\\\’aa would enable many Kenyans to access quality drinks at affordable prices.
"What this Bill is attempting to do is to ensure that we provide affordable, healthy alcoholic drinks for those who must use it. It will ensure that all alcohol that is consumed is produced under hygienic conditions and that the alcohol content is clearly known," she said.
She observed that the demand for cheap and often illicit brew in the country was very high and it could not be met \\\’overnight\\\’.
"However, if this alcohol is affordable, the demand for the illegal brew will actually go down," she argued.
The proposed Bill has met resistance from certain quarters who argue that legalising the production of chang\\\’aa would lead to an influx of \\\’brewing houses\\\’ and dens across the country.
Others fear that if legalised the brew will be taxed making it expensive and out of reach of the majority of people who consume it thus beating the purpose of sanctioning its production.
"That may not necessarily be true because much as the producers don\\\’t pay tax, they actually spend a lot of money to grease the hands of administrators and other people so that they can be allowed to brew," she explained.
"But if it\\\’s made legal, then they won\\\’t have to buy their space through the back doors and therefore whatever taxation which I believe will be minimal would facilitate the provision of the products at affordable prices," Mrs Kimani added.
She further argued that this would also promote local investment as many traders would not have to import the products some of which are of lower quality than that of the local brews.
"The government will therefore play an important role in ensuring there are well developed standards for alcoholic drinks and that all beverages adhere to the set quality of standards," she added.
Legalising of chang\\\’aa distillation is just part of the bill which seeks to reduce the excessive consumption of alcohol and the consequences associated with it.
The Authority\\\’s Chairman Dr Frank Njenga said when enacted, it would not only help protect consumers\\\’ health but also prevent the access of such drinks to children under the age of 18.
Upon its implementation, it will prohibit parents from taking the minors to bars or entertainment spots where alcoholic drinks are stored or consumed.
"My hope is that law enforcement will be taken more seriously in this country in the future in all aspects including in this particular law," he said when asked how if enacted the law would be put into force.
The two officials however expressed their support for the bill which also outlaws the sale of alcoholic drinks using vending machines and in sachets and which will require the content of the drink to comprise not less than 30 percent of the total surface area of the package.
There are provisions of the setting up of an Alcohol Drinks Control Fund to aid research and dissemination of information on the health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption.