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Hong Kong’s new alcohol law won’t halt young drinkers without strong enforcement

    PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 6:44am
    UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2018, 6:44am

    I refer to the new law on selling and supplying alcohol (“Hong Kong to ban under-18s buying alcohol in shops”, November 14).

    As early as 2000, the government banned liquor licensees from allowing people under the age of 18 to consume alcohol on their premises. However, this left young people free to turn to places such as convenience stores or supermarkets, which had a free rein.

    There has been a lapse of 18 long years before the introduction of this new law, which is supposed to plug the loophole of young people being able to buy alcoholic beverages from shops. However, the authorities could consider some further measures.

    Easy access to booze for minors in Hong Kong

    First, propaganda or education is not enough. Except for the big stores, most sellers lack visible notices making it clear that they will not sell alcohol to underage customers. The authorities must make sure that all stores comply with the new law to do so.

    Second, punishment is only imposed on the seller, not the buyer, which may not serve as an effective enough deterrent.

    Third, even if the new law is in force, underage drinkers may still find older people to buy alcohol for them and their ability to binge-drink will not be curbed.

    The only positive development is that the manpower for enforcement will be increased from 89 to 120, which means there will be a few more job openings. However, with about 15,000 retail outlets at which alcohol is sold, the manpower to enforce the law is still far too limited.

    So, in all, I think the new law may not bring about a substantive reduction in underage drinking.

    Randy Lee, Ma On Shan