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Hong Kong to ban under-18s buying alcohol in shops

  • Law aimed at ending sales to youngsters, and requiring signs about the rule in shops selling liquor, to come into effect at the end of November
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 8:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2018, 10:55pm

Hong Kong youngsters will no longer be allowed to buy alcohol from shops when a new law kicks in on the last day of this month.

But youngsters will still be able to drink liquor at family gatherings or social events, officials said.

Although the city’s bars and clubs are already banned from serving or selling alcohol to minors, retailers do not have to follow the rule. Leading chains such as 7-Eleven have for some time ­voluntarily refused to sell liquor to anyone below 18.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Department of Health noted its Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office would enforce the Dutiable Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 from November 30. The new law specifically prohibits the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor to anyone under 18.

“The new legislation aims to prevent young people’s access to alcohol,” said Dr Jeff Lee Pui-man, the office’s head. “We also urge everyone, especially young people, to adopt an alcohol-free healthy lifestyle.”

Lee noted the law covered all kinds of sale and supply, irrespective of whether payment is involved. It included alcoholic drinks sold or supplied for commercial purposes at fairs, celebrations or exhibitions.

But he explained that the law did not apply to family gatherings or social events with no business intent.

Family doctor Dr Cheng Chi-man said the move was in the right direction.

Easy access to booze for minors in Hong Kong

“Family gatherings and social events might be exempted due to difficulties in enforcing the law in these situations, as they could be private events,” he said.

While this could be a loophole in the law, in deciding what is exempted and what is not, Cheng believed authorities should be given some time to go ahead with the law before assessing its effectiveness.

The maximum fine for anyone breaking the new law is HK$50,000 (US$6,400) on summary conviction.

Stores selling alcohol are also required to display a sign containing both the Chinese and English versions of a prescribed notice about the law, in a prominent location.

The maximum fine for non-compliance with the notice requirement is HK$25,000 on summary conviction.