Alcohol Consumption to be Further Curbed in Malaysia from Dec. 2017

Alcohol on sale in a duty free shop in Langkawi

Like to have a drink on a holiday in Malaysia? It will still be possible but it will be more restricted and -above all- be more expensive. Malaysia is taking a step to introduce from December1, 2017 new rules for alcohol in a bid to curb consumption. The gazetted amendments of Food Regulations on general standards for alcoholic beverages were published last May.

Malaysian Health Minister Seri S. Subramaniam declared that under the regulations alcohol can be sold or consumed only by those 21 years and above, unlike the current age of 18 years.

Retailers selling alcohol will be strictly controlled to be sure that they do not sell alcoholic beverage after midnight. All beverage containing alcohol will have to carry health hazard labels on the products.

Compounded Hard Liquor (CHL), normally cheap brands mixing strong alcohol beverages- will be only sold in glass b bottles with minimum 700 ml content while the tax on those products will increase drastically, from RM5 (US$1.20) per bottle to RM40 (US$ 9.50) to RM50 (US$12) per bottle.

The Minister indicated this step should make CHL vastly unaffordable to the lower income group, which is the highest consumer of cheap liquor. Those who do not comply to the amended regulations can be fined up to RM10,000 or two year jail sentence.

Mr. Subramaniam said the amendments were made in consultation with the relevant stakeholders and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He indicated that his ministry will also work with the Urban Well-being, Housing, and Local Government Ministry to ban public drinking especially in places like parks. The rules are part of a vast trend in Malaysia to ban alcohol in daily life.

Two states -Kelantan and Terengganu- ban totally the sell of alcohol. Although sharia law applies to Muslim drinking alcohol, Malaysia surprisingly ranked a few years ago as the tenth largest consumption market of liquors and other alcoholic beverages in the world. According to studies Malaysians spend over US$500million on alcohol each year with an average consumption of 7 litres per capita. Among the drinking population, the Malaysian Indians are by far the heaviest drinkers with an annual consumption of alcohol exceeding 14 litres.

Neighbouring Singapore passed a strict law on alcohol consumption in April 2015. Under the law, drinking is banned in all public places from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail shops are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am. There are even stricter rules in Geylang and Little India, which are designated as Liquor Control Zones – places with a higher risk of public disorder associated with excessive drinking. In both districts, public drinking is banned in  from 7am on Saturday to 7am on Mondays. Shops within the zones are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 7pm on weekends, the eve of a public holiday and the holiday itself.