City Weekend

New law to stop minors in Hong Kong buying alcohol from shops

City plans legislation to impose age limit on stores selling liquor to children

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:45am

Convenience stores and shops across Hong Kong will be banned from selling alcohol to minors under new legislation to be proposed by the government this year as it steps up efforts to tackle a rise in underage drinking, the Post has learned.

The law, if passed by the Legislative Council, will prohibit retailers from selling liquor to anyone under the age of 18 – the same as the current restriction on the sale of tobacco.

Easy access to booze for minors in Hong Kong

Although the city’s bars and clubs are already banned from serving or selling alcoholic drinks to minors, retailers do not have to follow the rule. Leading retail chains such as 7-Eleven have agreed ­voluntarily to refuse to sell liquor to anyone below 18, but staff seldom bother to check the age of customers. This is a problem that has been confirmed by various studies and demonstrated in a test conducted by the Post.

The new move by the Food and Health Bureau comes amid criticism that Hong Kong is slipping behind other developed cities in its handling of underage drinking, and that it remains easy for teenagers to enjoy a tipsy night.

“The proposed statutory regulatory regime will cover all forms of commercial sale and supply of alcohol, including internet sale ... and from the vending machine,” a spokeswoman for the bureau said, confirming the plan to table the legislation this year.

Sellers will also have to display signs stating that no alcohol may be sold or supplied to anyone aged below 18.

A government poll in 2014 found that 56.2 per cent of the city’s students had tried alcohol, with 21.9 per cent of those aged 10 or below saying they had done so.

Last year the Centre for Health Protection found that 43.1 per cent of 1,630 people polled had taken their first sip of alcohol before the age of 18. It also showed a worrying rise in binge drinking among students.

Stop Hong Kong retailers from selling alcohol to minors, health officials urge

The Medical ­Association, the city’s largest doctors’ group, said 77 per cent of the 1,003 people it polled supported banning the sale of alcohol to those below 18.

Allan Zeman, ­chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, supported the move, saying anti-social behaviour among the young at nightspots might damage Hong Kong’s image abroad.

“Some of the retail chains are very powerful here. I think we should look at what other cities in the world have done and get tough about this,” Zeman said.

A 7-Eleven spokesman said the chain supported legislation banning the sale of alcohol to those aged below 18.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Wine & Spirits has previously said it supports an age limit on the sale of alcohol, but it should be set at 16.