A multi-stakeholder dialogue was held in Phnom Penh on January 10 to explore the adoption in Cambodia of a Legal Purchase Age (LPA) of 18 years of age.

Attended by representatives from the public and private sectors, the dialogue was organised by the Cambodian Safety Solution Organisation (CAMSAFE) and the Asian Vision Institute (AVI).

Setting LPA at 18 years old

According to data from the World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory, 19 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds in Cambodia are current drinkers.

Some 28 per cent of males in this age group drink alcohol, and 11 per cent of females.

The need to limit youth access to alcohol is important because of the harms associated with drinking at an early age and its long-term impact on a child’s development.

The vast majority of countries across the globe have adopted an LPA, a law that specifies the legal age when an individual can purchase an alcoholic beverage whether on- or off-premises.

Specifically, the introduction of an LPA provides important protections when it comes to the sale and advertising of alcohol.

In other jurisdictions, an LPA ensures alcohol is not sold or willingly advertised to minors.

As a result, it has been shown to be an effective policy tool to reduce and prevent youth drinking.

Cambodia remains one of the few nations in the world, and the only country in ASEAN, without a minimum LPA.

While there is no consensus internationally regarding the age at which alcohol intake becomes appropriate, the most commonly applied in ASEAN countries is 18.

Globally, close to 80 per cent of countries with an LPA have set the legal age at 18 years old.

In May 2022, HE Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister and Minister of Public Works and Transport, announced the government’s intention to set a legal minimum age limit for alcohol consumption.

Officials from his ministry, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Health hope to reach a consensus soon.

HE Min Meanvy presided over the session. SUPPLIED

Multi-stakeholder dialogue session

Building on the government’s announcement, the multi-stakeholder dialogue on January 10 provided an opportunity for stakeholders from the private and public sector to share their perspectives on this important topic.

Key line ministries were in attendance, along with civil society and private sector representatives, international embassies and trade associations.

The event was presided over by HE Min Meanvy, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, who is also secretary-general of the National Road Safety Committee.

Participants explored the proposals for an LPA in Cambodia and its implications, as well as the potential benefits, risks and challenges that could arise from the adoption of such a policy.

It further provided a platform for stakeholders to share their perspectives on how best to ensure that any changes introduced to Cambodia’s regulatory framework are effective, equitable and sustainable.

There was an overall agreement on the importance of an LPA for Cambodia and the need to put one in place.

Beyond the adoption of an LPA, the multi-stakeholder dialogue session was an important demonstration that shared solutions, and cemented robust partnerships among the private and public sectors, and communities key to reducing youth drinking.