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Faith Nyasuguta 

The Ugandan government plans to increase the alcohol consumption age from 18 to 21 to counter addiction, a state official has revealed.

“We want to reduce the number of people who are going to buy. We want to raise the age from 18 to 21,” the Ministry of Health Commissioner for Mental Health, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Dr Hafsa Lukwata said.

She was speaking at the second National Prefects Conference 2023, an event aimed at crafting measures to fight drug abuse among students in Uganda.

Currently, Uganda leads East Africa in alcohol consumption.

In her view, science has shown that if someone has not taken an addictive substance by the age of 21 years, chances of them taking the substance later in their life is reduced

“It is an 88% chance that they will never take this substance. At 18 years of age, the chances are 48 percent,” Dr Lukwata added.

According to her, many industries will approach policy makers, some of which she called drunkards to have this altered.  

“Most of the industries will approach some policy makers who also drunkards because they take alcohol to have this altered. They will say, ‘why are you making life difficult.’ No for addictive substance; the age has to be 21 years,’’ she said.

According to the 2023 report released by the global health body WHO, on average, a Ugandan consumes 12.21 litres of pure alcohol annually

The WHO report further indicated that men in Uganda consume more alcohol compared to women, with each consuming an average of 19.93 litres of pure alcohol compared to 4.88 litres of alcohol consumed by women annually.

The same report indicates that about three million deaths (about 5.3% of all deaths) across the world occur annually as a result of harmful consumption of alcohol.

Dr Lukwata seemed disturbed by the findings of the research which rated Uganda at the top of the alcohol consumption list on the African continent.

“We will never develop as a country if the majority of the people are taking drugs or alcohol for that matter,’’ she said.

“There has been a public outcry over substance abuse in young people,” Dr Lukwata added.

Mr Saidi Nsamba, the Commissioner Guidance and Counselling at the Ministry of Education and Sports, said some students had resorted to smoking gray hair, paspalum, and cow dung. 

“What was an urban issue has now reached the rural settings,” he said.

Initially he said, men were the ones abusing drugs but females have also engaged in the vice.

SCP Namutebi Hadijah, Ag Chief Political Commissar Uganda Police Force who spoke at the event spelt out penalties against drug use. 

She noted that most people rejoiced when the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act, 2015 which prohibited the sale and use of several narcotic drugs in the country was annulled thinking narcotics are legalized. 

This she said was a gap in the law and is being addressed. As they wait for a better legislation, she said the enforcement officers are now using old laws to curb the vice.

WHO says harmful consumption of alcohol is the underlying factor in more than 200 diseases and injuries across the world.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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