Vietnam lacks tight control over alcohol consumption

HANOI (Viet Nam News/ANN) - Vietnamese people consume alcoholic beverages in excess but the country lacks specific regulations for prevention of its harmful effects, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son has said.

He was speaking at a conference on law for prevention and control of alcohol related harm in Hanoi on Monday.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health show each Vietnamese person consumes 6.6 litres of pure alcohol per year on average.

The percentages of Vietnamese men and young adults drinking beer and liquor are high.

Production of alcoholic beverages in Vietnam has increased in recent years while elsewhere in the world there has been a global decrease.

Some 3.4 billion litres of beer and 300 litres of liquor were produced in the country in 2015.

But Vietnam is yet to have a strict and specific set of regulations for the prevention of alcohol related harm, said Son.

There is one decree issued by the Government in 2017 on trade in alcohol, and one decision issued by the then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in 2014 on national policy of preventing harms of abusing alcoholic beverages by 2020, he said.

“But these documents are considered only as guidelines and still need to be institutionalised to have legal values.”

The health ministry has written a draft law on preventing and combating harmful effects of alcohol and beer, which has been reviewed by the National Assembly, he added.

“We are in the process of adjusting the draft law for the second submission to the assembly in May.”

Having these legal documents developed is of utmost importance since excessive alcohol consumption is a public health issue in Việt Nam that needs urgent actions, said Kidong Park, representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Vietnam.

There are two core principles that need to be applied when it comes to developing policies for alcohol consumption, he said.

“The Vietnamese Government and lawmakers should shield people from being exposed to alcohol advertisements and marketing. They should increase tax on alcoholic beverages, reducing alcohol availability at retail stores, and either ban or restrict promotions.

“They should also develop and strongly enforce regulations prohibiting the use of alcohol when people are driving, as well as monitoring blood alcohol concentration through checkpoints.”

Park said WHO is concerned about alcohol consumption in Vietnam and its side effects since statistics from the organisation in 2016 show a Vietnamese adult consumed 8.3 litres of alcohol per year, while it was only 1.3 litres per person per year in the whole Pacific region.

Alcohol consumption is the direct cause of some 30 non-infectious diseases and 200 other types of disease. It is also one of the causes of premature death and disability, according to the health ministry.