Researcher calls for ban on all alcohol advertising, minimum age requirement on sales
Meas Ny, a social development researcher, is of the view that allowing children to buy alcohol has the consequence of leading them to become problem drinkers in future, while noting that advertising is a big factor in promoting alcohol consumption.
Ny calls for a ban on all or at least some alcohol advertising, while government officials said they cannot completely ban such ads but can limit their broadcast time on television.
He told The Post on September 15 that while the promotion of alcohol in Cambodian media is currently banned, most busy streets are lined with countless billboards advertising alcohol, noting that there are about 100 times more beer ads than ads paid for by political parties.
“Advertising is a big motivator for people to drink, especially to drink to win prizes and letting children buy alcohol has the consequence of leading children to become heavy drinkers later,” he said.
The social development researcher said he surveyed 1,090 students in the 12th grade across Battambang province, an initiative sponsored by Dewey International University. The results of the survey indicated that 20 per cent of all 12th grade students in the province are engaged in some alcohol use.
He said that more than 50 per cent of the students stated that the reason why these 12th graders were interested in alcohol was mostly due to the various media advertisements, while some had started drinking because of pressure from friends.
The average drinker in the survey was 17-years-old, but of the 20 per cent of drinkers identified in the survey, 90 per cent had started drinking more than three years ago. With an average interview age of 17 that means that of those 20 per cent who drink, 90 per cent of them first started drinking at the age of 14.
“There are two points of interest. The first is that we found that 63 per cent of the children
interviewed said they saw adults send young children to the store to buy alcohol for them, which should not happen, but secondly, 12 per cent of the students thought this was normal or nothing special,” he said.
According to Ny, the real evidence related to the driving force behind the increase in alcohol consumption is the price. Cambodia does not have an enforced age requirement for alcohol purchases. He said that the number of alcohol shops has increased greatly compared to just 10 years ago, as evidenced by the statistic that 10 years ago on average liquor stores were found 300 to 500 metres from most residents’ homes, but now they are on average only 150 metres from any given home.
“This is a sign of an increase in the sale of alcohol in response to increased consumption. It means that if the sale of alcohol is not controlled by anyone, it just keeps going up and up,” he said.
He said that in order to reduce alcohol use in Cambodia – because of its significant impact on the health and well-being of students and youths particularly – the government should eliminate alcohol-related media and advertising and increase the number of education programmes in schools.
Phos Sovann, head of the General Department of Information and Broadcasting at the Ministry of Information, told The Post on September 15 that the information ministry is planning the legal framework to set limits on the promotion of alcohol, but due to the Covid-19 problem the work was delayed.
He said the ministry will implement regulations regarding the promotion of alcohol immediately after the updated law on the control of alcohol products enters into force.
“Regarding the advertising of beer or alcohol, it’s the position of the minister that once the law on alcohol that we have prepared comes into force we will implement limitations on ads because the ministry must operate within a definite legal framework as in the case of cigarette advertising,” he said.
Sovann confirmed that the ministry could not stop the publication of such ads at present with the exception of implementing a time limit for broadcasting about alcohol, because existing regulations permitted it, and that the “Golden Hour” when TV is most watched does not allow such advertising presently.
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports spokesman Ros Soveacha said on September 15 that his ministry and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Health were continuing to discuss a minimum age requirement for alcohol use for the draft law on the control of alcohol products, but no decision had been made yet.
Regarding the use of alcohol, Khieu Borey –secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and vice-president of the Cambodian National Council for Children — said at a seminar about the effects of alcohol on children on the evening of September 9 that alcohol use has many side effects on young people, especially impacting their health and potentially sabotaging their educations.
“We know that alcohol and drugs are a big problem for young people and if they take them, they will have many undesired consequences, such as physical and mental health problems, traffic accidents, violence, domestic unrest as well as just wasting a lot of money,” she said.