The Ministry of Information has written to Minister of Industry and Handicraft Cham Prasidh requesting he examines the possibility of placing warnings on bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages, while it has also prohibited the advertising of alcohol on national holidays.
On April 25, a Ministry of Information delegation met with the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations to discuss the impact of advertising on alcohol consumption, saying it is harmful to health and causes traffic accidents, contributed to damaging property and had claimed lives.
The subsequent letter, dated April 30 and signed by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, said in order to reduce the negative impact of alcohol consumption and save lives, the Supreme Council for Consultation and Recommendations requests the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft collaborate with all stakeholders to require the placing of a “Do not drink and drive” warning on alcoholic beverages.
“The message will encourage people to drink responsibly, thereby reducing traffic accidents and positively contributing to better health and saving lives,” the letter said.
Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts spokesman Oum Sotha told The Post on Thursday that the ministry was now awaiting Prasidh’s approval of the request.
“The warning will not solve the problem 100 per cent, but it is better than having no message at all. It will make people think before buying alcohol,” he said.
Minister of Information Kanharith also issued a separate letter prohibiting the advertising of alcoholic products in all media on the annual Visak Bochea and Meak Bochea festivals.
“The vast majority of Cambodian people are Buddhist followers and celebrate these days. I would like to ask all media owners to stop broadcasting advertisements for alcoholic products on Visak Bochea Day and Meak Bochea Day,” Kanharith’s letter said.
Cambodian Movement for Health executive director Mom Kong said the measures were a step in the right direction but were not sufficient because the ban on advertising would only be in place during religious celebrations.
“Ads are a major factor in increasingly attracting young people to drink. The message shouldn’t just be about not driving while drunk. It’s not sufficient to warn people of the many dangers of drinking,” he said.
A representative of a beer distribution company in Kampong Cham province told The Post on Thursday that the measures must be respected, but it is up to the large companies who produce alcoholic beverages to implement the new guidelines.
“When a law is passed, it must be respected. It’s not a problem for us because we are just distributors. It is the business of the factories themselves. If they obey it, great."
“It’s like with cigarettes, though – even though there are health warnings on cigarette packs, people still buy them. But putting warnings on the packaging has to be a good thing and hopefully it contributes to helping society,” she said.
A 2015 report by the Youth Committee for Unity and Development found that alcohol and drug abuse were a major problem for the Kingdom’s youth.
And in 2017, the Asia Foundation found that alcohol was a major factor in domestic violence.