The Alcohol Situation in Vietnam

Alcohol Culture in Vietnam

In many parts of the globe, alcohol is a household name. Presented in many forms for unit consumption, alcohol is widely considered a tool for social engagement and communal bonding in many regions of the world. Depending on the civilization, the culture of alcohol consumption differs across many regions. In Vietnam, bias hoes (Beer Halls) can be found full of men smoking and munching pork sausages while playing a drinking game. Others simply get a glassful, assemble in a group and shout with weird delight – “Mot! Hai! Ba! Do! (One! Two! Three! Drink!). About 90% of the total annual alcohol production volumes in Vietnam are supplied by the top four major breweries –Safeco, Heineken, Tabaco, and Hue Brewery.

Alcohol Consumption Rate Globally

In a 2019 publication on Alcohol consumption, the research compared statistics and measures that define alcohol consumption culture in different regions of the world. This report pegged the global average consumption rate at 6.4 liters per person older than 15 in 2016. In simple terms, this translates to an average of 53 bottles of pure alcohol per person older than 15. Particularly, the consumption rate of Alcohol is low in North Africa and the Middle East. As expected, the consumption rates are high in Europe, Asia, and selected countries in West Africa.

Judging from data sheets published by the American Addiction Centers on Global alcohol production rate, the consumption rate appears to correlate proportionally with the production rate in many regions of the world. With an annual production rate of over 112 billion and 61 billion 12 oz. Beers, China, and the United States are considered the largest producer of beer globally. In Southeast Asia, Vietnamese is fast evolving as an expanding economy with free mobility and increased access to money and commodity products. With an increase of urbanization and rural-to-urban migration rate, the Vietnamese economy and social construct features have significantly impacted the consumption behavior of commodities, including alcohol.

Alcohol Production Trend in Vietnam

In 2005, the journal of Health Education Research conducted a clinical study of alcohol use and HIV risk in a rural Vietnam province. This report quoted early data published by the World Health Organization on the trend of alcohol consumption in Vietnam. According to the WHO, the postwar 1980s in Vietnam witnessed a sharp dip in alcohol consumption rate. By the early 1990s, this rate has received a significant boost. On estimation, the Vietnam Standardization and Consumer Association (VINASTAS) reported an annual alcohol production level of over 264 million liters. Of this volume, home-made alcohol accounts for over 242,000 liters annually.

In 2016, the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Vietnam recorded the consumption of 3.9 billion liters of alcoholic beverages. In 2019, the consumption rate reached 4 billion liters. By the end of 2020, the consumption of beer and alcoholic beverages in Vietnam is projected to reach 4.84 and 4.97 billion liters, respectively. The volumes affirmed Vietnam as the largest consumer of alcohol in Southeast Asia.

Alcohol Regulations in Vietnam

Many expert observers have linked the high consumption rate of alcohol in Vietnam with its poor implementation of regulations guiding alcohol procurement and consumption. As early as 2007, the Health, Industry, and Trade ministries of Vietnam jointly announced a ban on advertising any form of alcohol with 4.5 percent alcohol content. As a policy control aimed at reducing the negative burden of alcohol consumption on the population, the authorities also announced the prohibition of alcohol sales to people under the age of 18. People between the ages of 19 and 23 are legally permitted to procure an alcoholic drink with an alcoholic content of not more than 13%. Alcohol drinks with alcoholic content above 14% are reserved for those above 24 years.

In 2014, the Vietnamese imposed special excise duty on alcohol units available for consumption in the country. This special consumption tax aims to increase the retail cost of beer and alcoholic beverages and ultimately reduce the consumption rate. The 2013 Law on Alcohol Advertising also banned the mass advertising of alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content above 15%, except beer. In 2015, the Ministry of Industry and Trade enacted a law to regulate the issuance of licenses to liquor distributors and wholesalers.

Impacts of Alcohol on the Social Sphere in Vietnam

Globally, alcohol consumption has impacted the social sphere. In the United States and China, state-sponsored agencies are observing the link between alcohol consumption in different regions and the rate of associated risk behaviors. Medically, heavy alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many diseases. In Vietnam, the burden of alcohol use on the social sphere is measured with three unique parameters: alcohol per capita consumption level, the prevalence of last-month drinkers, and heavy episodic drinking prevalence. In 2019, the Journal of Global Health Sciences reported that the annual consumption level per capita of pure alcohol by adults in Vietnam has increased from 3.4 liters in 2004 to 4.7 liters in 2010 –a higher value compared to the global average of 6.4 liters.

In a 2016 publication, the World Health Organization estimated that over 3 million people die annually as a result of the harmful use of alcohol. More than three-quarters of the recorded death was among men. In a comprehensive breakdown, the report suggests that about 21% of these deaths were attributed to digestive disorders, 28% to self-inflicted injuries, and 19% to cardiovascular disorders. As a leading consumer of alcohol in Asia, with a population of over 90 million people, Vietnam has its own fair share of alcohol-attributed associated risk behaviors. Annually, it is estimated that drunk driving results in over 4,000 deaths in Vietnam. In the same year, about 10 percent of all Vietnamese death between the ages of 50 to 69 years were linked to alcohol-related liver cancer.

The culture of binge-drinking has gained wide media coverage in Vietnam, with many social vices reportedly linked to this culture. In an effort to crack down on drunk driving, the police department of major cities –including Ho Chi Minh City – in Vietnamese have started using Breathalyzers. – technology-based sensor to detect and measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). For motorbike drivers, Vietnam officially allows a BAC of 50mg/100ml and zero for automobile drivers. Despite these strict measures, a health journal report published in 2019 attributed about 32.4% of the total road crashes in men and 19.6% in women to alcohol-related risk behaviors. A further breakdown of this report suggests that 32.5% of all married women –or those living with their partners – experienced some form of harm as a direct result of their partners’ heavy drinking behavior.

The consequences of heavy alcohol consumption in Vietnam have been a consistent theme of many academic discussions and surveys. In a bid to curb this risky behavior in many counties, the WHO recommended a series of evidence-based approaches in its Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol as published in 2010. Implementation of these interventions is expected to relieve the social burden of heavy alcohol consumption in at-risk countries, including Vietnam.











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