Religious, social, and cultural constraints have long kept Asia’s rate of alcohol consumption—and alcohol related harms such as alcoholism—lower than that of other regions. However things are changing and the alcohol industry now sees the biggest potential growth in sales resting in Asia. Regional economies are growing fast and consumers, who are eager to emulate Western drinking habits, want to drink more and more imported liquor rather than local beverages.
Reports indicate that the Asia-Pacific region will contribute to more than 70% of global beer growth over the next five years, and in some places increases in alcohol sales are already far outpacing increases in GDP. Vietnam alone has seen beer sales increase at double the rate of GDP growth in the past 5 years. Some of the world’s largest brewing companies are setting up shop in places like Yangon, Myanmar and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in anticipation of the projected growth.
Pernod Ricard—owner of some of the world’s most famous alcohol brands – has already become an industry leader in Asia and currently makes 39% of sales in Asia compared to 35% in Europe and 26% in the Americas. With increased alcohol consumption Asia will also see an increase in alcohol-related harms, something many nations are not currently equipped to deal with.
Alcoholism, Violence, and Other Negative Effects of Increased Alcohol Consumption
The alcohol use trends in Asia not only reflect a general increase in alcohol consumption, but also an increase in binge drinking, especially in places such as Hong Kong. Binge drinking is when a person drinks 4 or more beverages within one sitting, and can often lead to alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a disease that impacts the overall well-being of people who suffer from it. Many people are not well informed about the risks of drinking, including the fact that alcohol is addictive and drinking can lead to alcoholism. As the international alcohol industry makes its way into Asia more and more advertising will glamourize alcohol use, and never show the harmful consequences that alcohol misuse can cause.
The World Health Organisation is calling for a 10% reduction in alcohol abuse and its harmful consequences by 2025. They attribute the harmful use of alcohol to more than 200 diseases and injuries in addition to alcoholism, and it kills 3.3 million people worldwide each year.
Drunk driving is one of the serious concerns to public safety that alcohol use poses. Indonesia is one of the few countries who openly sell alcohol, yet has no legal limits on driver’s blood alcohol levels. Other nations in the region are beginning to assert greater regulation on drunk driving, however they fall behind their Western counterparts in this matter.
While drunk driving is one of the most talked about public health concerns related to alcohol use, the relationship between alcohol and crime should also be put in the spotlight. In the United States, where per capita alcohol use levels are already high, alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes.
With increased alcohol consumption comes increased violence, and people who have been drinking are more likely to be victims of and perpetrators of violence. In Australia, 1 million children are affected by an adult’s alcohol use, and alcohol is a factor in as many as 2/3 of domestic violence cases. Alcohol use increases the severity and incidence of domestic violence. With fast growing rates of consumption, Asian countries may see a similar increase in rates of violence, alcoholism, accidents and death related to alcohol use.
What are Some Countries Doing to Curb Alcohol-Related Harms?
Many countries in Asia are currently facing the issue of how to regulate increased alcohol consumption. Before harsh laws and bans are imposed, it is in the interest of the alcohol industry to stay ahead of the game by showing that it can work to curb alcohol misuse. Currently, 13 of the world’s largest alcohol companies are participating in a world-wide campaign to curtail harmful use of alcohol—leaders of these companies have made commitments to promoting the sensible use of alcohol and discouraging underage drinking and drunk driving.
Regional governments have also put in place some of their own alcohol regulations. Thailand appears to be moving further than other governments to counter growing demand for alcohol in the Asia-Pacific region, however some believe new regulations are a PR stunt that will have little observable impact on consumption patterns.
Thailand recently banned the sale of alcoholic beverages (although the exact implications of this ban are quite unclear) within 300 metres of Colleges and Universities. Officials say the new regulation is aimed at promoting a healthier lifestyle and tackling alcohol related problems—including underage sex. However, there is no clear mention of alcoholism as one of the potential problems.
Indonesia has recently banned alcohol sales in small shops—a ban which has received opposition especially in and near Bali—the country’s major tourist hub. Vietnam, Philippines, and China have also introduced policies to curb alcohol demand.
By contrast, in Myanmar there are currently no national policies or action plans to tackle problems related to alcoholism and increased alcohol consumption. This includes no legal requirements that advertisements and containers contain warning labels, meaning people may be vastly unaware of the potential harms of alcohol.
In much of the world alcohol use is the leading cause of death and disability for people age 15-49, which means alcohol not only poses serious risks to health, but also to development of young people. One major issue facing the region is the lack of treatment options for those who exhibit signs of alcoholism. For the alcoholic, drinking has become out of control and they cannot simply stop on their own. Without intervention the disease of alcoholism will progress and cause serious health and social problems including death.
The Cabin Chiang Mai’s alcohol rehab in Thailand is currently Asia’s leading addiction treatment centre. They offer a safe haven for people across the region to address their alcoholism or drug addiction, and also provide education about addiction to the region. If you or a loved one are having issues with alcohol consumption, it’s important to get help sooner rather than later, if you’re looking for a successful recovery.