Teen alcohol use in Cambodia is hovering around the middle of the pack compared with its neighbours, with a recent study in the Nagoya Journal of Medical Science attributing teen drinking, in part, to the ubiquity of advertising.
In 2013, the researchers behind the study interviewed 3,806 secondary-school students about their drinking habits. Ten percent of those interviewed – who had an average age of 15.7 years – reported “current alcohol use”, while 10.8 percent said they had been drunk at least once in their lives. Regionally, Cambodia sits somewhere in the middle in terms of rates of alcohol use by adolescents, which vary across Southeast Asia – from 1.6 percent in Myanmar, up to 18 percent in the Philippines.
The researchers noted that while alcohol sales have gone down in high-income countries, they are on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, such as Cambodia and its neighbours.
They attribute this rise to “globalisation, industrialisation, migration, rising living standards and increasing media presence”. More than 50 percent of the study’s respondents reported seeing alcohol adverts every day.
Dr Mom Kong – director of the Cambodia Movement for Health, which advocates for alcohol control – agreed ads played a role. “And currently this trend is increasing very fast, because there’s advertising everywhere, the price is so cheap and there are a lot of promotions,” Kong said.
“If you observe, the price of food has increased and the price of alcohol has decreased,” he added, noting more laws were needed to regulate alcohol – for instance, a minimum purchasing age.