Easy-to-obtain liquor licences have increased both the number of drinkers and the amount of alcohol they consume, according to a Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI) study.
Teenagers are the prime target of liquor firms that advertise their products on social media. Young drinkers buy alcohol mostly from supermarkets, convenience stores, pubs and bars.
One indicator of easy public access to liquor is the high number of liquor licences issued compared to the size of the population, according to Dr Polthep Vijitkunakorn, a HSRI researcher.
On average, one liquor outlet caters to 113 people and there are 1.2 outlets per square kilometre of the country, he said.
Research has shown a positive correlation -- the more liquor licences granted, the higher the density of outlets, Dr Polthep said. Teenagers' drinking behaviour was also studied.
Information for the study was collected for over a decade starting in 2007, he added.
In the last two years, 5,082 new liquor licences were issued, bringing the total to 588,962.
"Thai people have rather easy access to alcohol and outlets are all around, including close to educational institutions," the researcher said.
Liquor shops close to schools were found to abound in Nonthaburi, he noted.
Dr Polthep said the study found the dense distribution of liquor licences caused a 1.9-fold increase of new male drinkers. More licences being approved also pushed up consumption among female drinkers by 1.23 times.
He said stricter criteria should be adopted when approving applications for liquor licences as well as for renewing them.