Three expats living in Vietnam have been asked by Tuoi Tre News to share their thoughts on a proposal to ban alcohol advertising in order to reduce local consumption.
The Ministry of Health is currently drafting a law on alleviating the impact of alcohol, which includes the proposal that beer and other alcoholic beverage companies be banned from producing promotional campaigns aimed directly at consumers.
The ministry is also suggesting that it ban all advertising and marketing activities for any alcoholic beverage with an alcohol content of more than 15 percent, and stop advertisements for products below this level in public spaces like buses and outdoor billboards.
In addition, the draft law proposes a prohibition on beer and liquor companies from sponsoring events and programs in the fields of education, culture, the arts, education, healthcare and sports, and even suggests banning beer and alcohol from weddings and festivals.
In the UK the alcohol industry self-regulates, but has to follow guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority. However some think this still isn’t enough, and recently there have been calls for a complete ban on alcohol advertising by Public Health Experts.
Other research says that a ban on alcohol advertising will have no or little effect on total consumption. I believe this to be true, and that any ban would instead affect brand loyalty – meaning consumers would drink just as much, but not be so influenced by brand messages.
With regard to banning beer and liquor manufacturers from sponsoring events and programs in the fields of education, culture, the arts, healthcare and sports, I think this is excessive for a number of reasons. The first is consumer choice. Many sports and events rely on beer and alcohol sponsorships to survive – and to ban adult-orientated sponsorships, be it for a music event or any sports activity, will be detrimental to the choice and availability of social activities across Vietnam, of which there aren’t enough as it is. Most of the events that do exist are well organized and feature enjoyable catering for responsible adults. Of course, other non-alcohol brands can get involved as sponsors, but in my opinion this will result in less available finance and therefore less incentive for event organizers.
Finally, what will the government do with large, foreign alcohol-sponsored platforms that have an audience in Vietnam, for example the Champions League (Heineken) or English Premier League (various beer sponsors)? Ban them too?
If regulations are to be implemented, the total impact must be well considered and thought through.
I think the correct solution to reduce alcohol consumption is education, to raise awareness of the importance of moderate drinking and to increase awareness around drink-driving. With regard to this specifically, more police breathalyzer checks should be installed on the roads. Beer is very cheap, perhaps an increase in alcohol prices could be applied to pay for this education?
Daniel Gordon Jones from the UK
Bring more consciousness
I am against any blanket ban as I believe it to be unhealthy for society. Rather, the authorities should raise the consciousness of people and promote that further.
Yes, advertisements do have an influence, but banning them isn’t the best solution. Liquor is a part of people’s culture and accepting it openly is a part of any progressive society. Promoting social consciousness campaigns about drinking responsibly is the way forward. I suggest the authorities demand an emphasis on this type of message from alcohol companies in their communication.
The government should encourage alcohol companies to contribute more rather than prohibit them. The fields of culture, the arts, education, healthcare and sports in Vietnam need greater financial support and contributions to develop to a global level.
Moreover, beer and alcohol are a part of celebrations and I can’t imagine weddings and festivals without them. What will happen to Mot, Hai, Ba, Dzo!?
Don’t ban or prohibit, rather promote drinking responsibly and awaken social consciousness around that.
In India, we have the concept of ‘surrogate advertising.’ This is how alcoholic beverage companies promote their products under the same brand name but alongside more socially acceptable products such as mineral water, soda, fashion or events. For those that know however, they get the message.
Alok Bhute from India
A reasonable, if not logical step
The impact of alcohol is serious. I think the argument is about whether you believe in the effectiveness of advertising to influence people. I believe it does and so to mitigate the impact of alcohol, as is the wish of the government, placing restrictions on promoting it seems like a reasonable, if not logical step.
It's a natural extension of the logic they seem to want to apply when the draft law proposes prohibitions on beer and liquor firms from sponsoring events and programs across multiple fields like the arts and education. I doubt it will ever get traction at things like weddings though. Freedom of choice to celebrate a private event with a drink should not be taken away to this extent.
The solution needs to be education at a young age. In Australia, a drinking culture is still somewhat enforced on young people who will drink to 'fit in' around sporting clubs for example, and this is surely reinforced by the mainstream advertising of alcohol, which remains rampant. To reduce the access alcohol companies have to young people wherever they are is important, and to do it before it becomes completely entrenched is as essential.
In Australia there are definite restrictions on how, where and to whom any alcoholic beverage can be directly promoted. I believe the legislation states that alcohol cannot be seen to 'improve lives' as a direct result of consumption and can only be marketed as something that can provide supplementary social benefits or brand 'prestige'. That said, it remains a major supporter of many events and is heavily promoted around sports, particularly to young males.
Jon Aspin from Australia