LETTER | The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) supports the move by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to ban sundry shops, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops in Kuala Lumpur from selling hard liquor with effect from Sept 30, 2021.
Our support for the introduction of this ban is because of many evidence-based reasons. We urge the government to:
- Restrict the number of licenses issued for outlets permitted to sell alcohol.
- There should be a public enquiry if someone applies for an alcohol licence and the neighbours of the proposed outlet should be issued notices to see if they agree to the proposal.
- Increase the fines of alcohol retail outlets that flout the law. Vendors, restaurants, and retailers require a licence to serve alcohol. However, retailers do not need a licence to sell beer in cans or bottles. Thus, to circumvent this, cafes and other vendors are able to sell beer and provide bottle openers to enable their customers to serve themselves and drink at the premises despite being illegal to do so.
- Make it illegal to drink in public places. Currently, it is not an offence to drink in public places such as parks, playgrounds, and beaches until the drunkard creates a nuisance or chaos. Offenders in Singapore, for example, could be fined of up to S$10,000 (about RM30,410), if convicted.
- DBKL is banning the sale of liquor “in front (CAP’s italics) of police stations, houses of worship, schools and hospitals”. It is rather weird when it should be within a radius of 300m from these institutions.
In 2001, the Institute of Alcohol Studies found that more teenagers in Malaysia took to drinking alcoholic beverages at an earlier age. A study showed that 45 percent of youths under the age of 18 consumed alcohol regularly.
Alcohol consumers in the general population in 2019 increased to 11.8 percent from 8.4 percent in 2015.
In the latest study under the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019, 45.8 percent Malaysians binge drink alcohol, beating the United Kingdom whose binge drinking figure stood at 27 per cent.
One in 10 are involved in Heavy Episodic Drinking (HED), which means that the person consumed six or more standard alcoholic drinks at one sitting weekly.
Alcohol consumption is related to many non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular-related illnesses, liver cirrhosis and cancer. It is also associated with motor vehicle accidents, fights, domestic violence, and sexual assaults.
In the lower-income families, the consumption of alcohol deprives these families of expenses for food and other essentials. Moreover, according to a report, about 30 percent of road accidents can be attributed to drunk driving.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), deaths caused by alcohol in Malaysia is staggering: 17.6 percent of men and 10.9 percent of women from road traffic injuries; 16.8 percent men and 16.2 percent women from liver cirrhosis; and 2.2 percent men and 0.6 percent women from cancer.
Malaysia, unfortunately, does not have an alcohol monitoring system except for health (such as when a person with an alcohol-related health problem goes to a health facility) and social consequences (such as police reports on alcohol-related rowdy behaviour).
In 2008, Thai Beverage, Thailand’s largest brewer and distiller, attempted to list in the Stock Exchange of Thailand and failed after about 250 anti-alcohol activists staged a protest in front of the stock exchange, demanding the authorities change market rules to stop alcohol-related firms from getting listed.
In fact, Thai Beverage tried once before in 2004 in bringing its operations under one company. However, that failed too because monks and anti-alcohol activists opposed, saying that it would promote alcohol consumption in Thailand.
The Thais are against alcohol consumption because they recognise it as a contributing factor in many social and health problems. If the Thais themselves can realise the dangers of alcohol consumption and want to curb the consumption of alcohol, Malaysians can also do the same.
We want to reiterate our call over the decades that the sale of alcohol has to be strictly regulated because it has caused so much misery to people worldwide.
Alcohol is categorised in the same group of psychoactive drugs as cocaine, LSD, nicotine, and cannabis.
MOHIDEEN ABDUL KADER is the president of Consumers Association of Penang (CAP).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.