Vietnamese youth starting to drink way too early

By Le Nga   November 17, 2018 | 06:16 pm PT
Vietnamese youth starting to drink way too early
People enjoy beer at a Hanoi restaurant. Photo by Reuters
Forty four percent of Vietnamese students have their first drink before they are 14. Experts warn this can facilitate addiction.

A survey carried out by the Hanoi University of Public Health since 2013 has found that 80 percent of males start drinking as teens and adolescents, against 36 percent of females.

Associate Professor Pham Viet Cuong mentioned these statistics in a discussion on a draft law on preventing adverse impacts of alcohol consumption late last week.

The law is being reviewed by lawmakers at the ongoing session of the National Assembly.

Among students, 44 percent of boys between the 8th and 12th grades took their first alcoholic drink before age 14 and 22.5 percent had felt tipsy at least once, the survey found.

Drinking at an early age can lead to a high addiction rate since the brain is still vulnerable at a young age, the research team said.

According to 2015 police records from 11 provinces, up to 70 percent of criminal cases were associated with alcohol consumption under the age of 30.

Students drinking alcohol also led to a series of other problems including absenteeism, conflicts with family and friends and unsafe sexual behavior, the survey report said.

"If we do not act now, the problem might get worse," Cuong said.

Nguyen Van Tien, former Vice Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs, said that there are still many issues that the draft law has not adjusted, especially recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier this year, WHO asked the Vietnamese government to tighten controls over the production, sale and advertising of beer and other alcoholic beverages to discourage drinking and protect consumers’ health.

Tien said the government should have an agenda to fully implement WHO’s suggestions by 2025.

Nguyen Huy Quang, director of the Legal Department under the Ministry of Health (MoH), said the new bill will not ban alcohol consumption and will have measures that help curb consumption. These include selling alcohol within a set time period, age restrictions on purchasing alcohol, higher taxes, a ban on alcohol advertising, and more.

Data collected by the MoH shows Vietnamese citizens consumed 305 million liters of liquor and 4.1 billion liters of beer in 2017, making it the biggest alcohol consumer in Southeast Asia and third biggest in Asia after Japan and China. On beer alone, nearly $4 billion was spent last year.

The country spends on average $3.4 billion on alcohol each year, or 3 percent of the government’s budget revenue. The figure translates to a per capita spending of $300, against the $113 spent on healthcare, according to the ministry.

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