Ministry wants health warnings on liquor ads

By Viet Tuan   September 14, 2019 | 05:37 am PT
Ministry wants health warnings on liquor ads
A drinker pours beer into a cup at a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Reuters/Kham.
Liquor advertisements should carry dire health warnings, under a decree that instructs implementation of the Law on Preventing Acohol's Harmful Effects.

The decree requires liquor ads to warn strictly against driving under the influence, that liquor is harmful to the fetus, liquor consumption can cause liver cirrhosis and cancer, pregnant women should not consume alcohol, alcoholic drinks are not to be sold to people under 18, and people under 18 are not allowed to consumer liquor.

The draft decree, released Thursday by the Ministry of Health, also says both companies and individuals who use e-commerce to sell alcoholic drinks must have applications to prevent youth under 18 from accessing information about the products. The buyer has to put in their name, age, address, and ID number before gaining access to online shopping sites selling alcohol.

Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, agreed with the ministry, adding that the health warnings would "be particularly important for the underaged." She said the government should ban all kinds of alcoholic drink promotions in the long run.

On the other hand, National Assembly deputy Bui Van Phuong said alcoholic drinks are not harmful if consumed in moderation, so the warning labels should be clear that the adverse effects only happen in case of alcohol abuse.

"I support the warnings that say no driving under the influence of alcohol, and that alcohol abuse will lead to harmful outcomes like cancer, memory loss," he said.

Sociologist Trinh Hoa Binh also felt the warnings should clearly apply to alcohol abuse. "If all advertisements of alcoholic drinks must have health warnings, it will be difficult to make them applicable to real life," he said.

The Law on Preventing Alcohol’s Harmful Effects was passed in June and is set to go into effect in 2020. Any amount of alcohol found in a person’s system will result in his/her driving license being revoked, according to the new law.

Alcohol, especially beer, is widely consumed in Vietnam.

In a Lancet medical study published in May, Vietnam recorded the fifth highest increase in per capita alcohol consumption in the world. The country saw a 90-percent rise between 2010 and 2017, surpassing regional giants at a time consumption is declining in Europe.

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 Ministry of Health.

40 percent of traffic accidents in Vietnam are linked to excessive drinking, according to the WHO, which it said is an alarming rate for a country where road crashes kill a person every hour, on average.

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