Men drink beer on Lê Duẩn Street in downtown Hà Nội. National Assembly deputies agreed on the need for stiffer penalties for drink drivers at a meeting yesterday. — VNS Photo Trương Vị
HÀ NỘI — Lawmakers have mooted making drink-driving a criminal offence, whether they cause an accident or not.
Sùng A Hồng, National Assembly (NA) deputy from Điện Biên Province, made the suggestion on Thursday during discussions on a draft law on alcohol harm prevention.
Parliamentarians agreed on the need for stiffer penalties on drunk drivers, as currently the law only allows for fines or a licence suspension for drink-driving without causing an accident.
According to Nguyễn Thanh Hải, head of the NA’s Ombudsman Committee, every year about 30 per cent of social disorders is caused by drunk people, while up to 70 per cent of criminal offences are committed by drunk people aged 16 to 25.
Vietnamese people spend nearly VNĐ100 billion (roughly US$4.2 million) per year on alcohol. The State collects VNĐ50 trillion (about $2.1 billion) from taxes from alcohol sales each year, but spends VNĐ65 trillion ($2.6 billion) on healthcare expenses and other consequences caused by drunk drinking.
NA deputy Phạm Khánh Phong Lan from HCM City said punishments on drunk drivers should be extended to stricter punishments like forcing violators to do community service, increasing the cost of their vehicle insurance, or even temporary detention of drivers in extremely dangerous cases or in cases of repeated violations.
The blood alcohol levels of suspected drink-drivers must be tested to ensure equal punishments in each case, deputy Nguyễn Thị Phúc from Bình Thuận Province said.
Deputies proposed the NA issue a resolution on drunk-driving punishments, adding that solutions to improve public awareness and public campaigns to condemn drunk drivers must be used as well as laws.
Alcohol's impact on children
Lawmakers also expressed concern over how alcohol advertising affects young people.
Deputy Phạm Thị Minh Hiền from Phú Yên Province pointed out that alcohol consumption can lead to criminal actions.
“Anyone can become victims of alcohol, or even commit crimes if alcohol’s impacts are not controlled,” she said, raising fears that alcoholic drinks will become even more popular among young people if nothing is done to curb advertising and sales.
Several alcoholic drinks are advertised as soft drinks or fermented juice, Hiền claimed, without giving any examples.
Hiền proposed limiting the number of children exposed to alcohol advertisements and controlling advertisement content to ensure children are not encouraged to drink.
A change to the draft regulation regarding online alcohol sales also caused controversy.
A previous iteration of the draft proposed banning sales of alcohol stronger than 15 per cent online, however the version discussed yesterday did away with this limitation and would allow sales of all kinds of booze online.
Internet alcohol sales are currently largely unregulated.
Deputy Phạm Trọng Nhân from Bình Dương Province said the regulation would pave the way for more young people to buy drinks online, especially as more and more young people have access to the internet.
Other deputies noted that law enforcement is important but must ensure public health and the benefits of alcohol producers and sellers.
According to the World Health Organisation, Việt Nam’s beer consumption amounts to billions of litres per year. — VNS