Booze labels split public

Booze labels split public

Graphic images on bottles, cans 'won't deter' drinkers

Move Forward Party MP for Bangkok Taopiphop Limjittrakorn shows examples of health warning labels on bottles of alcoholic beverages as stipulated in a draft regulation by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee. The warning labels were created by the Craft Beer Association. (Photo: Taopiphop Limjittrakorn's Facebook)
Move Forward Party MP for Bangkok Taopiphop Limjittrakorn shows examples of health warning labels on bottles of alcoholic beverages as stipulated in a draft regulation by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee. The warning labels were created by the Craft Beer Association. (Photo: Taopiphop Limjittrakorn's Facebook)

The government is planning to introduce a new regulation that would require the makers of alcoholic beverages to put large, graphic images on every bottle and can they produce to warn the public of the dangers of drinking.

Drawn up by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee and the Department of Disease Control, the new regulation calls for graphic health warnings on the packaging, similar to those seen on cigarettes.

The rule has drawn criticism from producers of alcoholic beverages, as well as businesses in the tourism sector, who doubt the requirement will have an impact on consumer behaviour.

The public has until Thursday to give their input on the regulation via the Council of State's website. The rule will come into effect 180 days after it is published in the Royal Gazette.

Under the new regulation, the graphic warning will occupy at least one-third of the container. It will be accompanied with text warnings which warn the public of the dangers of excessive drinking, such as "Alcoholic beverages can cause cancer", or "Selling alcoholic beverages to people under 20 is punishable by imprisonment and a fine".

The push was criticised by Move Forward Party MP for Bangkok, Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, who is advocating for the liberalisation of rules on liquor making. He posted a picture of mock-up bottles and cans featuring the new health warnings created by the Craft Beer Association on his Facebook on Monday.

He told the Bangkok Post that he disagrees with the regulation because not only will it not discourage drinking, but it will also increase production costs for small-scale alcoholic beverage makers.

Moreover, the health warnings will undermine the unique designs of the containers, he said.

"The designs of craft beer cans are made by artists, and they are like contemporary art. Health warnings and scary pictures will decrease their value."

"There is no proof as to how effective the health warnings on beer cans would be, the same way it is unclear whether the warnings on cigarette packs actually reduced smoking," he said.

He said the new regulation, if approved, will apply to all producers, large or small, but it will disproportionately affect smaller players in the industry.

He also noted that there are concerns that the health warnings may contravene an international trade agreement.

Mr Taopiphop said if the public is strongly opposed to the regulation, it may prompt policymakers to think again before signing it, before singling out Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew, which he said never fails to make it known that he has the public's interest at heart.

The MFP MP noted the existing alcohol control laws and regulations are already extremely tight, so the government should focus on enforcing them to prevent abuse and harm before questioning whether the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee has overstepped its mandate.

Earlier, Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Road Business Association, criticised the draft regulation as a step backwards for the country, saying it could affect sales of alcoholic drinks.

Several netizens share similar sentiments.

A netizen who goes by the name Atsadin wrote: "People still smoke despite the warnings. They get used to it."

Another who uses the name Natcha said she does not think people will stop drinking, and the regulation simply shows that people are being treated as children.

Another netizen said the new regulation will not affect drinkers but those who collect the bottles or cans for their unique designs and brand labels.

Currently, cans and bottles of alcohol carry a text warning, with many emphasising the dangers of drink-driving.

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