LETTER | Cogent reasons to restrict alcohol availability

Hafiz Hassan


LETTER | Research findings in Australia published in September 2016 - the first systematic review of alcohol trading hours and violence in more than five years - show that restricting alcohol trading hours can substantially reduce rates of violence and relaxing trading hours has the opposite effect.

“From reviewing the evidence, the message is clear − the more you restrict alcohol trading hours, the more you reduce violence,” said lead author Claire Wilkinson from Melbourne’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University.

The findings are "strong enough" for recommendations to governments to make restrictions on late trading hours and the weight of evidence - both Australian and international - demonstrates the effectiveness of restricting alcohol trading hours in combating violence.

According to the review, evidence from international studies was "compelling". One Norwegian study found each one-hour reduction in trading hours was associated with a 16 percent drop in recorded assaults, and a Dutch study found a 34 percent increase in alcohol-related ambulance attendances following the extension of trading hours in two entertainment precincts in Amsterdam.

A study to examine research studies focusing on the availability of alcohol during hours and days of sale and density of alcohol outlets had also come to the same conclusion: restricting the availability of alcohol is an effective measure to prevent alcohol-attributable harm.

A very recent study on alcohol control policy in Europe - published barely three weeks ago on Nov 4 - identifies the most commonly used measures to restrict the availability of alcohol in Europe today: restrictions on opening hours for sales outlets of alcoholic beverages; restrictions on density of alcohol outlets; and restrictions on the people who are allowed to buy or consume alcoholic beverages, or on places where alcohol can be bought or consumed.

It then cites two countries, the Russian Federation and Lithuania, as best-practice countries whose measures should be considered by other countries.

Both countries recently implemented significant increases in alcohol taxation, imposed restrictions on alcohol availability, and imposed bans on the marketing and advertising of alcohol within short time spans.

Both countries subsequently saw significant decreases in consumption and "all-cause mortality".

So, there are cogent reasons to restrict alcohol availability, including by restricting its trading hours. The studies mentioned above have identified alcohol consumption as contributing to more than 200 different diseases, injuries or conditions.

Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa has rightly alluded to European rules and policies. Laws on alcohol have nothing to do with religion or race

Why do we have alcohol laws?

The answer is simple: alcohol laws help to protect the public from the harmful effects of alcohol.

Now, the Federal Constitution authorises Parliament to make laws relating to public order, public health or morality which may impinge on personal liberties. Parliament, in turn, may authorise the executive to make by-laws on the same.

Alcohol laws serve to protect public order and public health, if not morality as well.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.