South Africa's health department will review this year what measures are needed to "give balance" to the country's strong alcohol advertising campaigns.

The industry has been waiting with bated breath to see what the ANC government's plans are to shackle the alcohol industry after first dealing with the tobacco industry.

Increasing "sin tax" excise duties have been levied on both alcoholic and tobacco products.

Professor Melvin Freeman, Director of Mental Health, said he did not foresee any legislation being enacted this year, given the time needed to draw it up.

However, the department has completed research investigating how best to tackle the issue.

"At present there is a great deal of advertising, to get people to buy alcohol. We believe there is a need for a more balanced approach."

Dr Chan Makan, executive director for the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), said the alcohol industry was in constant contact with the department regarding alcohol abuse.

He said the association had drawn up a voluntary code of conduct 10 years ago which is constantly updated.

"All our members [which include the major producer organisations and wholesalers] have signed this code, which stipulates strict advertising and promotional guidelines.

"We feel that a meaningful way must be found to get the abuse message across - it must not just done to be seen to be doing something.

"It must be borne in mind that the major problem we face is that the abuse here, as in most other parts of the world, is mainly among the lower income earners, most of whom in South Africa are semi- or completely illiterate.

"Warnings on labels will not be of any value - we have to look at providing ways of educating people in a way that they will understand the message," said Makan.