Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers their thoughts on the Ministry of Health's proposal to ban the sale of alcohol from 10pm to 6am in an effort to curb alcohol abuse, which is a major factor in traffic accidents and domestic violence.
Here are some responses.
Chris Grant, Canadian, Vancouver
It won't have any effect on drinking and driving nor domestic abuse. People that are prone to doing those things have alcohol available no matter what the bans will be.
You are better off providing medical therapy to chronic offenders than thinking your ban will help.
I'm in Vancouver, Canada and there are similar bans. Does it stop those two issues?
Not at all.
Police road blocks to catch drink drivers and big penalties do. As for domestic abusers, they have medical problems and not being able to buy alcohol after 10pm isn't going to help at all.
In the US, beer and wine is available 24/7.
I have visited Viet Nam a couple of times in the past and will do so again. I enjoy drinking cold beer. If your bans affect my visits then perhaps I will decide not to visit because of the hassle.
Many of your residents seem to work 12 hour a day. When they finish their night jobs, why restrict them from a cold beer? What's that you say? They can buy it before going to work? Exactly my point. People that want alcohol will find ways to have it. Just like drugs.
Juha Halonen, Finnish, Ha Noi
Well from a tourism point of view, Ha Noi already shuts down alcohol/party establishments at 12pm, which for many westerners is early.
Back in Finland, they banned the sale of alcohol from stores after 9pm and stores can only begin selling alcohol after 10am. There was an outcry about this, and people started stocking up enough booze so they didn't need to run to the store at midnight to refill their supplies.
What this did for businesses purely or partly relying on alcohol sales however was quite positive. Bars and late night dining places got more customers as a result as these establishments can continue to sell alcohol on their premises until 4am (government regulated closing time).
John Boag, American, HCM City
The proposal to ban the sale of alcohol after 10pm is not without justification in that many abuses of such sales lead to traffic accidents and physical abuse: however, implementing such restrictions would be almost impossible.
California has some of the most stringent laws in regards to drinking and driving, one of which is a 2am ban on the sale of alcohol. Extra police patrols are set up to check for abusers. Also, the owners of establishments may be prosecuted for selling after hours.
Although these restrictions have had some effects, they have failed to curb the abuse in many cases. It may be wise to set up police check points after 10pm and pull over suspected drivers as a starting point to begin a crackdown on drink-driving.
Giang Le, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I don't think there is any way this could be enforced. It appears that we are banning everything we can't control. We don't have enough inspectors to implement the ban, and it would be easy for residents to buy all their alcohol before 10pm to avoid the ban. Let alone the urban area, how can we enforce the rule in the suburban and rural areas?
Another solution is to increase the tax on alcohol, which can give us more money for the State budget. I think we also need more public awareness campaigns to talk to people about the consequences of alcohol abuse, from schools to neighbourhoods and television to even bus stops.
We can also increase fines on those who use alcohol during work-hours and drivers.
This should not be applied in tourism areas. It would be silly to take away this freedom from the tourists.
JD Kellas, Australian, Can Tho City
Western and eastern societies appear to be addicted to alcohol, although I suspect that alcohol has been a part of all societies since time began. I certainly enjoy my beers, wines and Ha Noi Vodka.
While mellowing ones spirits and making life enjoyable and relaxing, there are also down sides to alcohol consumption. Excess usage can lead to alcoholism and adverse impacts on society such as domestic violence, health consequences and moral decline.
Travellers, especially the young, make it a rite of passage to overindulge in alcohol while overseas. One only has to look at the past activities at Vang Vieng on the Mekong in Cambodia to see that backpackers can act without regard to themselves or others.
While living in Ha Noi, I have seen little evidence of such over indulgence, but then again I might have been in bed early for my beauty sleep. It also strikes me that alcohol is readily available at shops, supermarkets, Bia Hois etc and one can easily obtain one's needs prior to 10pm with a little planning.
The attraction to over indulgence by the young in Viet Nam may well be related to the price of local beers and vodkas. With no excise or taxes to act as a financial barrier, it is easy to purchase large quantities of alcohol relatively cheaply compared to the costs in western countries.
I also note that many of my Vietnamese friends make their own ‘rice wine' or vodka, which is usually stronger than commercially available liquors at minimal cost.
My view is that packaged liquor sales should be limited after 10pm as most of Viet Nam is at home, but I would permit restaurants and eating houses to continue to serve alcohol until midnight and for the powers that be to tighten licensing hours.
Xavier Pinchart, Belgian, Ha Noi
Authorities should be careful of side effects of such a decision.
The main attraction of Viet Nam's cities is the street life. A city like Ha Noi is unique worldwide. Based on TripAdvisor, it is the second top ranked destination in Asia, ahead of Hong Kong, Bangkok or Singapore.
We see a tendency to limit street life: street food vendors are expelled and incredibly replaced by motorbike parking. An additional ban on selling alcohol after 10 pm would have a direct negative impact, not only for the tourism but for an unique lifestyle.
Bans on sales have contradictory results: in UK, the alcoholic consumption per capita grew by 9 per cent in the last 15 years, while it has one of the most stringent laws.
In France; the consumption knew a huge reduction, highly impacted by implementing very high fines for drivers who have drunk.
Working on responsibility of drinkers (and drivers), increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages will have better effects on individual consumption, while preserving one of the most precious Vietnamese feature: street life. — VNS