Sing, don't drink: Vietnam weighs banning booze in karaoke bars

By Le Phuong   April 28, 2017 | 05:45 pm GMT+7
Sing, don't drink: Vietnam weighs banning booze in karaoke bars
People drink beer in a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters

Late night drinking dens may lose their core clientele if the ban is approved.

Vietnam's health ministry has proposed a ban on the sale of liquor and beer in karaoke bars as part of the government's efforts to limit alcohol consumption in one of Southeast Asia's biggest beverage markets.

The ban is part of a draft bill to reduce the negative impacts of drinking, and states that the sale of liquor and beer should be prohibited for people under 18, pregnant women and those who appear to be under the influence, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien told a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

Advertisements for liquor and beer with over 15 percent alcoholic content should be banned, while ads for products with less than 15 percent should only appear between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the bill says.

It adds that beer and liquor companies should not be allowed to sponsor culture, art, healthcare, education, sports or entertainment events.

The draft is expected to be submitted next year to the national legislature for approval in 2019.

Last year, the health ministry suggested a total ban on the sale of liquor and beer after either 10 p.m. or midnight.

There is already a ban in place on the sale of liquor in karaoke bars that carries a VND3 million ($132) fine, but this seems to have been largely ignored. In 2013, the culture ministry suggested raising the penalty to VND5 million, but no further action has been taken.

A study jointly conducted by the health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) last year showed that 77 percent of Vietnamese men drink liquor and beer, and nearly half of them drink at hazardous levels.

Nguyen Phuong Nam, an official from the WHO, said nearly 67 percent of the 1,840 traffic accident patients involved in the study had high concentrations of alcohol in their blood, and 45 percent had driven after drinking for two hours or more.

Vietnamese people drank 3.8 billion liters of beer last year. That was an average of 42 liters per person, four liters more than 2015, the trade ministry said in a report.

Vietnam is the second biggest consumer of beer and liquor in Southeast Asia, only after Thailand, the 10th largest in Asia, and the 29th largest in the world as of last year, said the health ministry.