Controversy as Vietnam mulls ban on late-night alcohol sales

By Doan Loan   October 2, 2016 | 09:02 pm PT
Controversy as Vietnam mulls ban on late-night alcohol sales
People gather and drink beer at Hanoi's walking street. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
A new bill that looks to ban the sales of wine and beer has raised widespread eyebrows.

A new bill on alcohol consumption is receiving opposition from the public after it suggested a ban on sales of wine and beer after either 10 p.m. or 12 p.m.

Though appreciating the Ministry of Health's efforts to control alcohol consumption in a country where 40 percent of road fatalities are related to drunk driving, most experts said that the proposal could hit tourism and should be given careful consideration.

Nguyen Tien Dat, deputy director of Transviet Tourism Company, said that the ban would affect foreign tourists who often enjoy the local nightlife after 10 p.m.

“Hanoi has recently lifted its midnight curfew until 2 a.m. instead of 12 p.m. to serve tourists," Dat said. "The ban is going in the opposite direction," he said, adding that the ban could force businesses to find loopholes to keep selling liquor and beer.

Vietnamese traffic experts, at the same time, take a cautious view of the ban.

Khuat Viet Hung, deputy head of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said that drunk drivers are more likely to be involved in road accidents but there are no data about the rate of accidents caused by these drinkers after 12 p.m.

“Sales of alcohol are under the control of the Ministry of Industry and Trade so the two ministries should work together to weigh the pros and cons of the ban before delivering a final decision,” Hung said.

Another traffic expert also echoed Hung’s opinion, adding that some restaurants or services which focus on serving tourists should be allowed to keep supplying alcohol drinks. If the Ministry of Health intends to impose a total ban, they should ask for comments from other authorities.

The ban and other stipulations in the bill will be presented to the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, in 2018.

A recent study released by the Ministry of Health revealed that 77 percent of Vietnamese men drink alcohol with 44 percent drinking at hazardous levels.

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.

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