In many neighbourhood stores in Lagos, store attendants and adults who should know better, sell alcoholic drinks to under-aged persons, even in the midst of the illegal production and consumption of locally made alcoholic beverages that escape the attention of relevant authorities.
Under the guise of social drinking and merriment, under-aged teenagers have access to alcoholic beverages that they should otherwise not have access to. This is sometimes as a result of peer pressure from friends and family members who invite the underage to partake in such merriment.
And analysts say that the rise in this underage drinking menace is partly due to the easy access to alcohol at bars and liquor stores, particularly in undeveloped and developing countries where regulation on age limits are non-existent or largely unenforced.
There is a global concern triggered by the alarming spread of the ‘virus’ and danger of alcohol consumption among these underage persons. In is in that light, that brewing giant, Guinness has launched a programme called ‘Guinness’ Age Verification Programme’
The Guinness Nigeria Age Verification Programme, which was launched in June 2015, is an initiative targeted at stopping the sale of alcohol to minors or underage persons at designated partner superstores across the country.
It is a partnership between Guinness and four leading supermarket chains in Lagos namely Addide Stores, JustRite Superstores, SPAR Artee Group and Grocery Bazaar Limited, and it seeks to institute a culture of intolerance to alcohol consumption by persons under the legal purchase/legal drinking age of 18.
Through the programme, which will be expanded to other parts of the country, persons below 18 years will not be served and allowed to purchase alcoholic beverages in the stores. If the age of the youngster is in doubt, identification will be required before patronage.
Corporate Relations Director, Guinness Nigeria Plc, Mr Sesan Sobowale, who described underage drinking as a global issue that requires concerted efforts to tackle, stated that this initiative serves as a control mechanism on the sale of alcohol to minors or underage persons, that is, persons under 18 years of age. Furthermore, he stated that the programme gives fillip to one of Guinness Nigeria’s creed, which states that alcohol is strictly for adults, as such children and alcohol do not mix.
Guinness Nigeria’s age verification initiative may have come as a surprise to consumers and industry watchers, as one would have expected that a company whose innovative Ready-to-Drink product, Orijin, has gained wide acceptance in the youth market segment would not be campaigning against underage drinking and the potential to hurt sales. However, on the contrary, the brewer has led other alcoholic producers to openly steer a campaign that borders on the safety and health of youths. Responsible drinking is a crusade the company has championed for many years in the country.
The initiative comes against the backdrop of the adoption of the new commitments to reduce harmful drinking by 13 leading global producers of wine, beer and spirits, including Diageo, the parent company of Guinness Nigeria.
The Commitments, launched in October 2012, was designed to actualise the Global Alcohol Strategy outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in May 2010. The strategy aims at supporting member-states to implement targeted steps to reduce harmful use of alcohol. One of the Commitments is reducing underage drinking.
Diageo’s Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Menezes, had described the impact of the implementation of the Commitments as “good for our business, good for our communities and good for our consumers and it is quite simply the right thing to do.”