Restrict alcohol sales for health and social reasons

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) refers to the proposal for restricting the sales of alcohol in Selangor. Protests have abounded since then. Among the views given are that this move will affect the votes in the next election, and that it is unfair to non-Muslims.

CAP calls for all parties concerned to unite to focus on the health and social reasons that require action to be taken to restrict sales and prevent excessive consumption. This is especially critical when it comes to youngsters. There have already been a number of reports of youngsters consuming alcohol, even to excess.

Alcohol-related harm is already well-known – potentially affecting the health of drinkers personally, while being implicated in incidents of road accidents, damage to public property, murder, poverty, absenteeism, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, broken homes, lowered productivity and other adverse social and economic effects.

More than 2 million people around the world die each year from alcohol-related causes. The harmful use of alcohol is a leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) is already working towards global initiatives to combat the harmful use of alcohol.

A licensing system could be initiated; following which, the sale of alcohol could be limited to just a few licensed liquor shops which are located away from residential areas and family recreation areas. Convenience stores like 7-Eleven and general sundry or grocery shops should not be licensed to stock alcoholic beverages. Alcohol should also not be served in family eating places and recreation areas.

Action could also be taken to curb the often aggressive advertising of alcohol. Taxes on alcoholic beverages could be raised significantly. Cheap liquor like samsu (with its often high alcoholic content) and alcoholic “soft drinks” should be banned.

In view of the potentially serious adverse health, social and economic effects, the Government could also seriously consider raising the minimum age limit for allowing purchase and consumption of alcohol up to 21 years from the present 18 years.

Letter to the Editor, 6 August, 2009