It is a common in Vietnam for children and adolescents to be served alcohol at stores and restaurant. Photo vtv.vn

Dr Nguyen Trung Nguyen, director of Bach Mai Hospital’s Poison Control Centre, the adolescent brain was vulnerable to damage caused by alcohol.

“The earlier young people start to drink, the more they will depend on alcohol when they are fully grown,” he said.

The early use of alcohol affected physical development, especially adolescents who were still growing physically and spiritually, Dr Nguyen warned.

Scientific evidence showed alcohol affected the structure of the brain which played an important role in studying, and caused memory and concentration loss, he said.

Shot-term consequences included alcohol poisoning, violent behaviour and traffic accidents. In the long term, drinkers became dependent on alcohol and could suffer chronic diseases, affecting both the physical and psychological development, he said.

Alcohol also posed a threat to the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Drinking can lead to puberty disorders and immune system deficiency, making adolescents more vulnerable to diseases, he said.

According to a survey conducted by the General Department of Preventive Medicine in 2017 at 50 schools in 13 localities nationwide, 43.8 per cent of boys and 37.7 per cent of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 had consumed alcohol.

Another survey in 2013 showed that 31 per cent of boys and 15 per cent of the girls aged between 13 and 17 had been drunk at least once.

It is common in Vietnam for children and adolescents to buy alcoholic convenience stores and restaurants.

In a recent TV programme broadcast by Vietnam Television, a boy was asked to go to a stall unaccompanied to buy beer.

The vendor was more than willing hand over the beverage, without asking if it was for him or an adult.

Le Thanh Tu, owner of a shop in Hanoi, told Vietnam Television she did not know who children or adolescents were buying alcohol for, but always ensured the origin of the product was clear.

Nguyen Trong An, former deputy head of the Children Protection Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said in many families, parents allowed children to try alcohol. They drank alcohol in front of their children, which did not set a good example.

Nguyen Huy Quang, head of the ministry's Department of Legal Affairs, said using alcohol at an adolescent age would have consequences for society.

According to research conducted by the People’s Police Academy in 11 localities in 2015, the number of drunk criminals younger than 30 years old accounted for 70 per cent.

The earlier young people started to drink, the higher the possibility of alcohol addiction, even five times higher. The possibility of committing violent actions and causing accidents was six times higher, said Tran Thi Trang, deputy head of the Department of Legal Affairs.

To control alcohol consumption at an early age, the Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention and Control which took effect on January 1 prohibits alcohol sales for those under 18 years old as well as the employment of people under 18 in alcohol production.

Children and adolescents under 18 are not allowed to drink alcohol.

Stores and restaurants that sell alcohol to people under 18 will be fined between VND500,000 (US$22) to VND1 million ($44).

Trang said although the law was stricter, parents had to change their alcohol consumption behaviour to set an example for their children. — VNS

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