KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 ― The Health Ministry has increased the minimum age for alcohol consumption to 21 from 18 and imposed labels on alcoholic beverages that say alcohol can be hazardous to health.
According to the Food (Amendment) Regulations 2016 gazetted on May 17 by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, the regulations, which will come into effect on December 1 next year, also impose punishments of imprisonment not more than two years or a fine not exceeding RM10,000 against those who fail to comply with the rules on the sale and labelling requirements for alcohol products.
“There shall also be written in the label on a package of a non-serif character not less than 12 point size lettering, the words ‘MEMINUM ARAK BOLEH MEMBAHAYAKAN KESIHATAN’,” states the newly added subregulation 2A under Regulation 361 of the Food Regulations 1985 on the “General standard for alcoholic beverage”.
The Food (Amendment) Regulations 2016 was published on the federal gazette section of the Attorney-General’s Chambers website yesterday.
The Malay health warning on alcohol products, which is similar to the mandatory general warning on cigarette packs in Malaysia, is translated as: “Consuming alcohol can be hazardous to health”.
The health warning is also required to be placed on a notice in front of the locations where alcoholic beverages are sold, along with signs at the counter on the prohibition of sales to those aged below 21 years.
Research on whether drinking is good or bad for health is mixed.
UK magazine BBC reported last January Prof Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addiction Research at the University of Victoria in Canada, as saying that there are no biochemical benefits to drinking. He reportedly said alcohol consumption at any level increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer and that a man who drinks three to four units a day raises his risk of getting prostate cancer by 23 per cent.
However, Dr Alexander Jones, a consultant cardiologist and clinical scientist at University College London, reportedly said moderate consumption of alcohol, up to two units a day, was linked with a lower chance of developing coronary heart disease or stroke, according to large prospective studies.
International news wire Reuters reported that according to a filing by Malaysia to the World Trade Organisation last December, the country planned to raise the legal drinking age to 21 and to add labelling requirements on alcoholic beverages to warn about their impact on health.