Drinking becoming a problem in Vietnam

By Khanh An, Thanh Nien News

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Young people drinking at a roadside eatery in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tri Quang 
Police in Quang Ngai Province have closed the file on a fatal traffic accident in which two motorbikes crashed into each other, killing both drivers, one of whom was returning home after drinking and the other after buying some alcohol.
They made the decision since the accident involved no one else and both drivers were no more.
The accident happened on May 30 on National Highway 24 when Pham Van Run, 22, after drinking, crashed into Pham Van Con, 32.
Run died on the spot while Con died on the way to the hospital, the police said, adding there was a bag of alcohol on Con’s bike when the accident happened.
Drinking is listed as one of major causes of road accidents in Vietnam.
Experts warn about a worsening scenario after finding alcohol abuse is on the rise, especially among young people.
The National Traffic Safety Committee has reported a total of 14,622 traffic accidents in January-August in which 5,821 people were killed and 13,234 others were injured.
Many young people think drinking is a way to show they have become adults, a survey found.
This means around 24 people were killed in crashes on a daily basis, or one death per hour.
Some 4,800 people die in accidents involving drunk driving every year out of a total of 12,000 fatalities.
Drinking motorcyclists
In Ho Chi Minh City alone, 351 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first half of this year, including 42 in accidents involving drunk drivers.
Lieutenant Do Quang Hung of the city traffic police said accidents involving motorbikes account for 47 percent of the total, followed by trucks with 24 percent.
“It is common for many people to drink before driving motorbikes home.”
A traffic accident caused by a drunk driver in Da Nang city on February 27. Photo: Nguyen Tu
Over 43 million motorbikes are registered in Vietnam, or 85 percent of all vehicles nationwide.
One of every three city dwellers drink at least once a week, 64 percent of them men, he said.
“Maybe it is unique that in Vietnam people drink during breakfast and lunch. Many accidents involving drunk driving happen on the way to work or while returning to office after lunch.”
Vietnamese laws allow zero alcohol level for car drivers.
For motorbike drivers, the legal limit is 50mg/100ml for blood alcohol and 0.25mg/l for breath alcohol.
Hung said the threshold is about a glass of beer or wine, which is enough to affect a person’s brain.
Younger drinkers, female no exception
Ha Thanh Thao, a Ho Chi Minh City student, said it is common among students to drink.
“All know that drinking can make you lose self-control, which can lead to fights or traffic accidents. But they drink anyway, thinking they can avoid it.”
A survey released last week by the Health Strategy and Policy Institute found that a quarter of Vietnamese drink, including an increasing number of young people.
Around 34 percent of respondents aged 14-17 said they drink; the proportion was 57 percent in the 18-21 age group.
About 40 percent are addicted to alcohol, the survey found.
Traffic accident victims at Ho Chi Minh City's Cho Ray Hospital. Photo: Ha Minh
Dr Huynh Thanh Hien of the Ho Chi Minh City Mental Hospital said alcohol abuse causes mental illness in one of every five people on average.
“Besides causing accidents, alcohol abuse can lead to fights and murders. In the long term, it causes irrecoverable damage to the brain.
“We have seen an increasing number of women suffering mental illness due to drinking recently.”
Wrongful perceptions
According to the Vietnam Beer – Alcohol – Beverage Association, Vietnam ranks 5th in Asia in terms of beer consumption behind Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and China.
Annual beer consumption per capita has increased from 3.8 liters in 2005 to 6.6 liters in 2010 and is expected to increase to 7 liters in 2025.
Mai Thi My Hanh, a psychology lecturer at the HCMC Pedagogy University, said many Vietnamese have a wrongful perception about drinking.
A survey by the university found that many young people think drinking is a way to show they have become adults.
Their other reasons for drinking include showing they are men and being confident at social gatherings, according to the survey which polled 670 students and young workers.
Almost half the people in the survey said they drink once a week, while 25 percent said they drink more than three times a week.
More than 55 percent said they drink a total of more than 3 liters of beer at a session.
“More dangerously, many people think that drinking is a habit and is neither addictive nor harmful to their health,” Hanh said.
Dr Huynh Thanh Hien of the HCMC Mental Hospital said: “Some young people even think drinking is good for their mind and brings positive feelings. So they are willing to oppose any alcohol ban.
You can neither work nor have a healthy life with alcohol-related illnesses. Then, what is the benefit of getting a business contract?” said Dr. Huynh Thanh Hien of HCMC Mental Hospital.
Hanh urged schools to step up propaganda about alcohol’s hazards and employers to enforce regulations on drinking ban.
“But the most important thing is young people’s willingness to abandon the habit.”
Hien said people often claim to have easily won a contract at a drinking table.
“This is a wrong perception because drinking is addictive and causes severe physical health problems and depression that could lead to suicide.
“You can neither work nor have a healthy life with alcohol-related illnesses. Then what is the benefit of getting a business contract?”

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