Government mulls curbing alcohol sales

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is seeking the public's opinion on designating no-alcohol zones at certain public places. It is also asking the views of the public on shortening the sale hours of alcohol at retail outlets.

The purpose is to protect the general public, particularly residents, from the threat caused by drinkers. The public consultation will run until 31 December 2013.

In a statement, MHA said that the measures will aim to reduce the sale of cheap liquor and alcohol intoxication. This is because residents living near Robertson Quay and Little India have raised concerns that the drinking issues exacerbated by the availability of cheap liquor from retail stores in the vicinity, are posing safety issues.

However not all marketers Marketing spoke to are jumping the gun when it comes to their marketing plans.

Bernard Yeo, head of marketing for Carlsberg said that at the current stage, it is too preliminary for the brand to comment on if there will be any impact to the marketing plans.

Shannen Fong, head of corporate relations, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore said that the company shares the same concerns that the government and public have regarding intoxication and how that can become a threat to public safety and welfare.

“We need to be mindful, however that while the proposed regulatory measures are proactive, they may lead to unintended consequences such as stock-piling or pre-ordering before the time curb and diverting the drinking context to elsewhere. There have been many case studies globally indicating that limiting access to alcohol has little or no impact on curbing intoxication,” Fong added.

Moreover, Fong added, the proposed measures can be discriminatory to majority of drinkers who consume alcohol responsibly. As such, examination of the proposals is needed “from varied perspectives and address the issues in a way that is a win-win for all.”

“We see the need to work together collaboratively across the industry - from producers like APB Singapore, to on-premise operators and retailers - to play our part in addressing intoxication, “ she said adding that the company is currently “brewing a plan even before the announcement by the MHA."

Currently, retail outlets in residential estates can apply for license to sell alcohol for 24 hours a day and those situated at mixed zones can sell alcohol from 6 am to 3 am on weekdays and up to 4 am on Saturdays and eve of public holidays.

In a statement to The Straits Times, a spokesperson from Dairy Farm Singapore, which manages 7-Eleven stores said that it will support the shortening of hours for alcohol sales even if it may "have an impact on the store's business."

In certain markets in Asia, governments have been steadily clamping down on alcohol marketing. The latest one to implement such rules is Vietnam. Late last year, Vietnam established strict procedures on alcohol. Under the new rules, before distributing alcoholic beverages, a producer must now submit to authorities, along with the application for a production license, documents concerning trademarks and conformity with technical and food safety standards.

Earlier this year, a draft bill was submitted to the Indonesian Parliament calling for a ban on alcohol. In tourist heavy cities like Bali and Jakarta, this has raised fears of a loss of business in nightclubs, hotels, beach bars, and restaurants for outlet owners.