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Jul 22, 2014 / 10:44

Ministry gets tough on alcohol sales

The Ministry of Health has proposed a draft decree to that would ban the sale of alcohol between 10pm and 6am.

This decree was made after several reports about the consumption of alcohol in Vietnam were published in the media. It is estimated that on average each person in the country consumes 32 litres of beer a year and this number is expected to increase to 45 litres by 2015. As 3 billion litres of beer were consumed in 2013, Vietnam placed was the third largest per capita consumer of beer in Asia.
Nguyen Huy Quang, head of the ministry's Legal Affairs Department, said the decree is aimed at preventing alcohol abuse.
The sales of alcohol at workplaces, educational and medical facilities and playgrounds would also be off limits to alcohol vendors. Officials from the health sector, municipal authorities and the investment and planning sector would be responsible for inspections. Violators could have their business licenses revoked.
According to Quang, many countries enforce a ban on alcohol sales after 10pm. Thailand and Singapore, for example, have limitations on the times and places one can purchase alcohol. Dr. Tran Tuan from the Research and Training Centre for Community Development gave support to the decree, emphasising that 4.4% of the Vietnamese population suffers from alcoholism.
Some aspects of the regulation remain troublesome to business owners, however. Even though the drinking age would not be changed by the decree, stricter enforcement of existing law could cause problems for some business owners. Hoang Thanh Binh, the owner of a pub on Hang Buom Street in Hanoi, said that it is impractical to ask customers to show proof of their age. "How am I supposed to know whether a female customer is breastfeeding her child or not? Banning the sales of alcohol after 10pm may cost us our business," she said.
Nguyen Van Viet, Chairman of the Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Association, said several countries had had similar laws before, but found them to be ineffective and lifted the ban. Hoang Anh, Director of HealthBridge an NGO operating in Vietnam, said even though alcohol advertising is banned, it still exists in subtle forms.