The cost of the harm done to society by alcohol consumption in Vietnam is valued at 1.3-3.3% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) reported at a recent group meeting of the Ministry of Health in Hanoi.
Alcohol-related harm equivalent to 1.3-3.3% of GDP
A WHO report revealed that wine and beer consumption by the Vietnamese is high. A Vietnamese person over 15 years old consumes 8.3 liters of pure alcohol on average in 2016, equivalent to that in Thailand, but much higher than in other regional countries, such as Mongolia (7.4 liters), China (7.2 liters), Cambodia (6.7 liters), the Philippines (6.6 liters) and Singapore (2 liters).
WHO data also showed that alcohol was the cause of up to 79,000 deaths in Vietnam in 2016. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized for alcohol-related diseases.
With serious damage caused by the heavy consumption of alcohol, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien was quoted by VietnamPlus as saying, at a meeting for consultation on the draft law on prevention and control of alcohol-related harm, that it is crucial to solve such damages and reduce the burden on the healthcare sector, which works with limited resources.
At the meeting, the WHO presented some specific solutions to reduce alcohol consumption.
As shared by WHO Representative in Vietnam Dr. Kidong Park, evidence has pointed out that alcohol price hikes could help reduce consumption at hazardous levels for drinkers in general, and young people in particular.
The rate of deaths caused by alcohol consumption would then decline.
Another solution is restricting easy access and the accessibility of wine and beer on the market by introducing rules to reduce the number of stores selling alcohol, restricting the selling hours and minimum ages of buyers and consumers, as well as putting in place a strict licensing mechanism.
The WHO representative also mentioned the need for regulations concerning the advertising of alcohol products.
Many studies found that young people with frequent exposure to alcohol advertisements tend to start drinking earlier, or drink more often. Therefore, a restriction or ban on alcohol advertisements can cause alcohol use to decline, particularly among young consumers.
Also, attempts to prevent the damage caused by alcohol use will bring significant benefits to the nation. As the WHO estimated this year, every U.S. dollar spent on preventing the damage caused by alcohol consumption will gain benefits equivalent to US$9.13, according to Dr. Kidong Park.
Another report issued by the WHO early this year showed that at least 40% of the victims of traffic accidents involve drivers violating drinking and driving laws.
According to Nguyen Van Viet, chairman of the Vietnam Beer Alcohol Beverage Association, homemade wine has caused losses of VND800 billion to the budget, which is as much as the sector’s budget contribution. Thus a draft law should clearly set out the responsibilities of local authorities.