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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Economist Questions Thai Alcohol Policy Amid Finnish Model Adoption

Recently, Dr. Chidtawan Chanakun, an economics and political science professor at the Faculty of Economics, Kasetsart University, voiced significant concerns regarding the ramifications of promoting alcohol consumption under the pretext of individual freedom. Dr. Chanakun emphasized the adverse impacts of alcohol consumption, ranging from negative health outcomes to violations of individual rights such as sexual harassment, injuries, and fatalities.

In economic theory, alcohol is considered a commodity that requires government regulation to mitigate excessive consumption, as both consumers and producers face challenges in assuming responsibility for its use and distribution.

Studies across Europe, excluding the UK, have shown that self-regulation, where sellers control advertising without government intervention, has failed to curb alcohol consumption effectively. Consequently, governments worldwide are increasingly implementing stringent measures to reduce public alcohol consumption, considering its significant contribution to premature mortality, injuries, and various non-communicable diseases, all of which have enduring economic repercussions.

According to research by the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), the revenue generated from alcohol sales in Thailand amounts to a staggering 600 billion baht annually. However, the government’s alcohol tax revenue stands at a mere 150 billion baht per year. This discrepancy highlights a significant issue where alcohol-related industries benefit vastly more than the state, creating a skewed economic landscape.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption poses significant risks to public health and safety, which, in turn, strain the nation’s healthcare budget and workforce productivity. TDRI’s analysis, which references the Finnish model, underscores the need for careful consideration of policies aimed at regulating alcohol consumption in Thailand.

However, concerns arise regarding the accuracy and applicability of TDRI’s comparison to Finland’s alcohol control laws, as the current study lacks comprehensive legal analysis and may potentially mislead the public.

In reality, alcohol in Thailand falls under the Alcohol Control Act of 2015 (amended in 2018), which regulates alcohol advertising differently based on alcohol strength. Spirits, for instance, are subject to a complete advertising ban, whereas lighter beverages like wine and beer were previously allowed unrestricted advertising but with restrictions on targeting youth. However, due to evidence suggesting increased youth alcohol consumption, regulations were tightened, banning alcohol advertising in public spaces such as billboards, buses, shopping centers, cinemas, and train stations.

Moreover, sharing alcohol-related content on social media platforms by consumers or intentionally sharing such content by alcohol brands is now prohibited by law.

The consideration of policies from developed nations like Finland must be approached cautiously, as what works in one context may not be suitable for another. Thailand’s recent reduction in alcohol taxes and efforts to amend laws regarding advertising and sales venues reflect ongoing attempts to address alcohol-related issues domestically.

However, the discrepancies between TDRI’s findings and the existing legal framework in Finland raise concerns about the suitability of proposed policies. As such, policymakers must ensure comprehensive assessments and consider Thailand’s unique socio-economic context to implement effective alcohol control measures that prioritize public health and safety over industry interests.

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