Vietnam weighs overnight alcohol ban

By Nam Phuong   April 14, 2018 | 04:00 am PT
Vietnam weighs overnight alcohol ban
People drink beer in a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters
The health ministry says it’s time to tackle the costs of excessive late night drinking.

Vietnam is considering options for limiting the sale of alcoholic drinks at night to prevent harmful effects of drinking, the health ministry said on Friday.

One option is to restrict the sale of alcohol to 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. everyday.

Under the second option, alcohol would only be sold from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Both options exclude international terminals at airports as well as designated areas for food, entertainment and tourism.

A third option is to build a set of regulations different from the mentioned time limits, the ministry said, without revealing details.

The proposal is part of a draft law on preventing adverse affects of alcoholic drinks, which will be reviewed by lawmakers this October. The bill would also prohibit using booze in promotional campaigns and advertisements of drinks with alcohol by volume greater than 15 percent. Lighter alcoholic beverages may only be advertised from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The health ministry also wants to discourage movies and television programs from showing drinking scenes.

Vietnam is famous for its beer drinking culture. It is widely believed that business deals in Vietnam tend to go more smoothly over a few drinks at the negotiating table. Vietnam is the biggest beer market in Southeast Asia, consuming nearly 4 billion liters last year.

Relatively low cost of local beer only makes it easier to also nhau - a Vietnamese habit of "eating and drinking for no particular purpose."

But the cost of drinking far exceeds its economic value, said deputy health minister Nguyen Thanh Long.

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.

As much as 40 percent of traffic accidents in Vietnam are linked to excessive drinking, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an alarming rate for a country where road crashes kill an average one person every hour.

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