PHNOM PENH - A rise in traffic accidents could be blamed on an increase in alcohol advertising, some health workers fear.
Mom Kong, executive director for the Cambodian Movement for Health, told a group of healthcare professionals on Monday that over-speeding and drunk driving are main causes of fatal accidents in Cambodia.
And there has been a rise in alcohol consumption that matches a rise in advertising.
Advertising should be reduced, along with other measures, to prevent increased fatal accidents, he said.
“Wherever we go, we see banners and posters of alcohol advertisements,” he said. “And the massive advertisement attached with prizes among alcohol companies also appears on radio and television.”
Ear Chakrya, program officer of traffic safety at Handicap International, agreed, but he said also said individual responsibility is also a factor.
Alcohol consumption has steadily increased in Cambodia over the last 15 years, up an estimated 63.5 percent, according to the World Health Organization. That increase has been mostly among male adults. More than 1,900 people died from traffic accidents in 2011, with another 5,800 injured, according to Handicap International. Alcohol consumption contributed to 274 deaths—about 14 percent—the group says.
An inebriated driver has a hard time concentrating and is slow to reaction to the unexpected, Mom Kong said. The driver may have blurred vision, fall asleep or take unnecessary risks.
The government should take action to reduce alcohol consumption and drunk driving, and it can start with advertising, he said.
A government ban on advertising with prizes for alcohol has not been effective, health workers say.
Meanwhile, increased tax revenue from alcohol should be used to prevent its dangerous side effects, Mom Kong said.
However, Ty Long, deputy director of public order at the Ministry of Interior, said banning alcohol advertising just isn’t possible.
“Advertisement is their right and freedom, so it is impossible to ban alcohol advertisement,” he said. “I am not saying that the advertisement has no effect on drinking, but it is the companies’ freedom. Second, we individually must always consume alcohol responsibly and consciously.”