Strict new laws on alcohol consumption, sales and promotion are expected to come into force by 2015 under a new Ministry of Health push to reduce alcohol-related accidents and health issues.
A law on alcohol is currently in the drafting process and will aim to address social issues surrounding drinking and ensure consumers act more responsibly.
The alcohol law and amendments to the healthcare law will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice lists before facing the National Assembly for approval in 2014.
New regulations would cover the purchase and sale of alcohol including times in which alcohol could be sold, media advertising and public promotion, and underage drinking.
Laos has never had laws in place regarding alcohol consumption, meaning people of any age have been able to purchase alcoholic drinks. Most countries around the world strictly control the age at which people can begin buying alcohol.
Increasing tax on alcoholic beverages is also being considered by the government, who would then have to decide where the new-found revenue could be directed.
The ministry has worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to collect information on alcohol consumption in Laos and further afield to inform the drafting of the law.
Deputy Head of Office of Ministry of Health , Dr Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, said some of the data gathered related to other countries that could provide suitable models for alcohol regulation in Laos.
National Institute of Public Health Director General, Associate Professor Dr Kongsap Akkhavong, said Thailand had set a good example for alcohol control at a regional and global level.
He said Thailand had been able to collect tax on its alcohol sales and use that money on safe drinking campaigns or building alcohol rehabilitation centres – of which Laos so far has none.
“We have to consider the cost of accidents; imagine how much money is spent to save the lives of those who have accidents after drinking,” he said.
A Vientiane Traffic Police official told Vientiane Times drink-drinking was a major problem in Laos that claimed lives on the road, especially among young motorists.
The official said the law’s overall effectiveness and performance would depend on its enforcement.
Neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam have laws in place restricting alcohol consumption but still face road safety issues.
Drinking has an enormous impact on the country’s health and economy.
More than 60 health problems, including high blood pressure, cancer, liver disease, diabetes and heart disease, are connected to alcohol consumption
According to a World Health Organisation report, Laos ranks top in the Asean region for alcohol consumption, at an average rate of 7 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.
A separate survey conducted in Vientiane and Champassak and Luang Prabang provinces found people drank, on average, 15 litres of alcohol per year.
According to the department, about 2 billion people around the world drink alcohol and about 1.8 million deaths each year are related to alcohol consumption.
Source: Vientiane Times