The Law on Preventing Alcohol’s Harmful Effect will take effect at the beginning of next year. There will be radical changes which will ultimately save lives, but can those changes be made?
Under the new law, anyone caught driving after drinking any amount of alcohol will have their licence revoked.
The issuance of the Law is an urgent requirement to prevent risk factors of non-communicable diseases, traffic accidents as well as violent crimes. It helped reduce the burden caused by the influence of alcohol and beer on individuals, families and society.
Việt Nam has been named among countries with the highest percentage of men drinking alcohol in the world. In 2010, 70 per cent of men and 6 per cent of women aged over 15 consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, with the rate increasing to 80.3 per cent for men and 11.6 per cent for women in 2015.
About 40 per cent of traffic accidents are caused by drink driving, according to results of the study on the effect of alcohol abuse on motorcycle driving behavior in Việt Nam conducted by the National Traffic Safety Committee and relevant agencies.
Motorbike drivers account for between 70-90 per cent of accidents.
According to Vũ Anh Tuấn, director of Transport Research Centre, Vietnamese-German University, after drinking alcohol, 68 per cent of drivers have subjective feeling so would drive home even when the alcohol content exceeds the permitted level. This threatened traffic safety and put themselves at risk.
There are two months before the law become effective, but many experts still express concerns about the feasibility of it.
While applauding the law, saying: “This is the first time Việt Nam has such a complete and comprehensive law on alcohol and beer prevention and control,” Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến admitted implementation would be a challenge because it is related to deep-rooted habits and behaviour of people.
Regarding the new provision which bans setting up of establishments where beer and alcohol is sold, within 100 metres from schools and health facilities, Nguyễn Trọng An, coordinator of the Việt Nam Non-communicable Prevention Alliance said it was difficult to do so, adding that a successful pilot was a must before it can be replicated.
He attributed to the fact that the law observance among Vietnamese people was very poor.
Another reason was that punishments were not strong enough, An said, blaming on authorised agencies for loose management.
Nguyễn Sĩ Cương, deputy head of National Assembly’s Committee for External Relations, agreed. He cited the Law on Tobacco Harm Control and Prevention as a typical example.
The implementation of the law hasn’t met expectations despite taking effect in 2013.
The exercise of the law has just stopped at dissemination activities. People’s low awareness on the harm of cigarettes was the main reason. It is common to see people smoking at crowded cafes, restaurants, public transport and even government offices.
Only two per cent of 17 million cigarette smokers have given up smoking in the past six years.
The handling of administration violations on the sale and use of cigarettes are not strict enough to deter people from lighting up.
Việt Nam sits 15th in the world as the largest number of smokers. Medical costs and labour productivity losses due to illness and premature death amounts to tens of billions of đồng per year.
Nguyễn Văn Việt, chairman of the Việt Nam Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Association, said the draft decree on the law on Preventing Alcohol’s Harmful Effect not allowing alcohol consumption at certain public places was infeasible.
“If people only use one or two cans of beer for refreshment in these locations, it is difficult to harm the community. On the other hand, the management agencies will hardly have enough forces to handle violators,” he was quoted by vovgiaothong.vn as saying.
The ban on alcohol use while driving is not new. It has been applied in many countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and China for a long time.
Take Singapore as an example.
If a driver is guilty of drink driving with alcohol concentration exceed the legal limit of 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, or 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, he/she are liable to fines of up to S$5,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.
People said that old habits die hard.
Drinking and driving do not mix but there must be laws that clearly define this, otherwise more innocent lives will be lost.
To effectively prevent alcohol-related harm, this law must be strictly implemented with support from the Government and agencies at all levels.
But most importantly, it needs support from the public. Mindsets need to be changed, habits must be broken.
Dissemination to raise people’s public awareness together with the reduction the ability of beer and alcohol was a must to ensure the enforcement of the law.
The most important issue here is to combat the abuse and saving people’s lives and their property. We do not prohibit the use but we must stop the abuse of alcohol.
Every hour a person is killed in a traffic accident on our roads. A high percentage of those deaths are caused by people who are drunk.
That must stop, not only to save lives, but for the future of our nation. — VNS