Vietnam's overnight alcohol ban proposal unfeasible: experts

By Anh Minh   April 18, 2018 | 07:47 pm PT
Vietnam's overnight alcohol ban proposal unfeasible: experts
A man pours beer to cups at a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 15, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Conflicts with existing laws and a practical way of enforcing the ban have led to a rethink.

Experts spoke out against a proposed ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks at night during a conference on Wednesday.

The proposal aims to restrict the sale of alcohol and advertising after 10 p.m., excluding international airport terminals and areas designated for food, entertainment and tourism.

The proposed ban would lead to binge drinking, said Dau Anh Tuan, head of the legal department at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

"Some countries have approved this regulation, but it doesn't really work. We can ban labeled products, but not home brew,” Tuan said.

The regulation needs to be looked at again, otherwise genuine brands might suffer while small home brew makers who don't pay tax could benefit, Tuan added.

The term “areas designated for food, entertainment and tourism” in the proposal is not specifically defined, said Matt Wilson, director of foreign affairs for Heineken Vietnam LTD.

Wilson said the ban might affect big entertainment events like the annual Heineken Countdown, which attracts a lot of young people on New Year's Eve.

“I think the government’s goal can be entirely achievable by self-regulatory regulations,” Wilson said, citing that 40 percent of the world’s major markets have been successful in self-regulation as they believe in the advertising industry as well as its economic benefits.

The enforcement of the draft law also raised concerns at the conference. “Who will carry out this law? And will they be able to?” asked Do Van Ve, former member of the 13th National Assembly. Ve said he was worried that with too many regulations that aren't actually enforced, people will start taking the law for granted.

Other experts at the meeting also said that a ban on alcoholic drinks advertisements was not in line with the Advertisement Law, which would eventually confuse people as they wouldn’t know which laws to follow.

The draft law, proposed by the health ministry, aims to prevent the adverse effects of alcoholic drinks with a volume of greater than 15 percent, which are widely consumed in Vietnam, a country famous for its beer drinking culture.

The country spends on average $3.4 billion on alcohol each year, or 3 percent of the government’s budget revenue, according to official data. The figure translates to $300 per capita, while spending on health averages $113 per person, according to the health ministry.

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