A coalition of civil society groups has called on the government to restrict advertising and increase taxes on alcoholic beverages in a bid to stem alcohol-related health and social issues.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said during a workshop on Friday that strong government policy on alcohol could help reduce cases of domestic violence, traffic accidents and diseases.
“We need a policy that covers the protection of public health,” he told the conference.
“I request the Ministry of Health to accelerate the development of an alcohol policy.”
A PCDP study presented at the workshop showed that 30 percent of the daily expenses of 1,400 people surveyed across seven provinces went towards alcohol. Overall, 16 percent of those surveyed were found to be alcoholics, and 58 percent of respondents aged between 15 and 25 said they drank every day.
Yong Kim Eng said the high rate of alcohol consumption among young people was a particularly worrying trend considering the wide range of health and social ills associated with such behaviour.
“Alcoholism is related to domestic violence and drinkers may search for commercial sex and face other diseases which require their families to spend money for their treatment,” he said.
He noted that there had been little development in alcohol policy in recent years, a stagnation that he attributed to a “lack of technical expertise and resources” being devoted to the issue.
Ung Phyrun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said the ministry was working on developing a policy that would limit advertising and increase import taxes on alcoholic beverages.
“We cannot prohibit people from drinking alcohol, but we should have strategies [to limit consumption],” he said.
However, he did not give a timeline for the completion and implementation of the policy.
Ou Bunlong, secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said import taxes on alcohol were increased from 20 percent to 25 percent in March this year. He said the government collected US$68 million in revenue from alcohol taxes this year, up from $24 million in 2006.