A proposal to allow the online sale of alcohol would make it even more difficult for the government to prevent purchases by minors, three non-governmental groups said yesterday.
The Taiwanese Society of Addiction, Taiwan Alcoholism Prevention Association and Taiwan Against Drunk Driving issued a joint statement ahead of a public hearing tomorrow on a proposed amendment to Article 30 of the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (菸酒管理法), which bans alcohol from being sold through vending machines or electronic platforms, or at post offices.
“On the basis of protecting the mental and physical health of children and young people, and preventing them from being harmed by alcohol, we are strongly against the proposed amendment,” they said.
Photo: Chen Hsin-yu, Taipei Times
The Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) bans the the sale or delivery of cigarettes, alcohol or betel nuts to people under the age of 18.
The groups said that despite the law, the government did not hold a restaurant responsible for allegedly selling alcohol to a 16-year-old high-school student, who they said drowned in the Tamsui River (淡水河) while intoxicated.
A 2019 Health Promotion Administration survey showed that more than 70 percent of teenagers reported having consumed alcohol, with more than 40 percent saying they bought the alcohol themselves, the groups said.
A 2013 Consumers’ Foundation report said that 80 percent of the convenience stores it investigated in 14 cities and counties sold alcohol to minors, the associations said, adding that teenagers mainly buy alcohol from stores.
Underage alcohol consumption can lead to various health issues, such as impaired brain development, decreased memory and concentration, reproductive system diseases, sleep disorders, obesity and alcohol addiction, they said.
Adolescents’ brains are not fully developed, and consuming alcohol can lead to overdrinking and death, they said.
About 1.3 million young people worldwide die each year, with drinking being one of the main causes, they said, citing WHO data from 2012.
Data from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction also showed that the risk of alcohol addiction is higher for 14-year-olds than for 21-year-olds, with the risk being seven times higher than that of adults, they said.
Over the past five years, 1,211 teenagers in Taiwan were killed or injured in drunk-driving incidents, and the number is rising every year, they said.
While legislators and alcohol industry advocates say that age verification over the Internet is possible, the Financial Supervisory Commission has said the age of the person making the purchase cannot be identified if the payment was made by credit card or another form of electronic payment, the associations said.
In 2012, a US study found that 45 percent of minors successfully purchased alcohol online, they said.
Countries that allow online sales of alcohol have formulated their own policies and laws to regulate the process, they said.
“Places currently selling alcohol in Taiwan have not thoroughly implemented age verification policies. Once online alcohol sales are opened, it will increase the risk of young people obtaining alcohol, which could lead to a rise in alcoholism and drunk-driving incidents among young people,” they said.
In January, an online e-commerce company was fined multiple times for illegally selling alcohol on the Internet, but the operator continued to flout the law, they said.
“Business owners are now lobbying to have the law amended. They only focus on commercial interests, and ignore the physical and mental harm caused by alcohol use among young people,” they said.
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