Vietnam: Growing Alcohol Addiction
Almost 60% Vietnamese people are consuming large amounts of alcohol leading to an increase in addiction in the country.
Vietnam is Asia’s third-largest beer consumer after China and Japan and the country has the biggest beer market in ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations). A study published in May 2019, in the prominent medical journal The Lancet found that per capita alcohol consumption in Vietnam increased 90% between 2010 and 2017, the fifth highest in the world.
Vietnam is rapidly developing economically, with its GDP increasing steadily. The economic growth coupled with insufficient alcohol policy regulations forms a perfect storm of increasing alcohol consumption and related harm – heavily burdening Vietnamese society. Current weak alcohol control policies can not keep up with the rapid economic growth, accelerating urbanization and alcohol industry-oriented policies (enabling more alcohol to come in to the country) designed to boost private profits instead of public health and sustainable development.
It is necessary for Vietnam and other South-East Asian countries to put in place evidence-based, comprehensive alcohol control policies such as recommended by the WHO Best Buys, as they are opening up their markets to the global alcohol industry and exposing their people to massive harm. Such policies address alcohol affordability, availability and marketing, thereby preventing and reducing harm.
If left unchecked increasing alcohol consumption and harm such as addiction will derail sustainable human development in Vietnam as social and health costs of alcohol use soar ever higher.
Unfortunately, the alcohol industry has succeeded in 2019 in derailing and destroying large parts of a bill to better regulate alcohol and institute comprehensive alcohol control legislation.
Alcohol burden in Vietnam
In their landmark study, the research team forecasts that globally levels of alcohol abstinence will continue decreasing to 40% by 2030 and the proportion of current alcohol users will keep increasing to 50% by 2030.
In 2017, 20% of adults were heavy episodic alcohol users (compared with 1990 when it was estimated at 18·5%, and this prevalence is expected to increase to 23% in 2030.
The projections show that alcohol consumption is set to keep increasing until 2030 in Vietnam, seriously jeopardizing the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in the country.
Already, alcohol per capita consumption among alcohol users only is staggering with almost 23 litres for both sexes and 29 liters among male alcohol users, as per the 2018 WHO Global Alcohol Status Report.
Already, Vietnam is ranked among the leaders of countries in terms of years of life lost due to alcohol.
The harm is pervasive and massive in the country. Annually alcohol causes,
- 11,000+ liver cirrhosis deaths,
- 6,750 deaths due to road traffic injury, and
- 3500+ cancer deaths.
9.8% men (who consume more alcohol than women in Vietnam) suffer from alcohol use disorder and a further 5.8% men are alcohol dependent.
The statistics are clear: Vietnam urgently needs to address their alcohol harm if they are to ensure equitable and sustainable development.
For further reading:
Vietnam: Big Alcohol Lobby Destroys Alcohol Law
New concerns have emerged about unethical lobbying practices of the alcohol industry. There are reports that some lawmakers had traveled abroad at the invitation of alcohol companies before the bill came up for discussion. And the alcohol industry appears to be successful in these aggressive and unethical lobbying efforts, as provision after provision is deleted from the draft alcohol law that is currently being discussed in the National Assembly.
Asia: Countries Off-Track to Reach SDGs
A recent UN report warns, not a single country in the Asia and Pacific region is on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.