Talks to Set Legal Age to Buy Alcohol at 18

Stakeholders have sat down to discuss introducing a legal purchasing age of alcohol at 18 in Cambodia to help combat youth boozing
Billboards promoting beers in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Prak Chan Thul
Billboards promoting beers in Phnom Penh. Kiripost/Prak Chan Thul

Talks have begun to explore setting the minimum age to buy alcohol in Cambodia at 18-years-old as statistics reveal 19 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds consume alcohol.

On January 10, relevant stakeholders met in Phnom Penh to hold a formal dialogue on the possibility of adopting a Legal Purchase Age (LPA) of 18 in Cambodia – one of few countries in the world, and the only in ASEAN, without a minimum LPA.

According to data from the World Health Organisation’s Global Health Observatory, 19 percent of 15- to 19-year-old Cambodians drink alcohol. A total of 28 percent of males in this age group drink alcohol, and 11 percent of females.

A statement released by event organisers, Cambodian Safety Solution Organisation (CAMSAFE) and Asian Vision Institute (AVI), stated, “The need to limit youth access to alcohol is important because of the harms associated with drinking at an early age and its long-term impact on a child’s development.”

It added that in countries that implement a LPA, the sale and advertising of alcohol is controlled. In addition, it adds a protective measure to ensure alcohol is not sold to minors.

“As a result, it has been shown to be an effective policy tool to reduce and prevent youth drinking,” the statement said. “Whilst there is no consensus internationally regarding the age when alcohol intake becomes appropriate, the most commonly applied age is 18-years-old in ASEAN countries.”

Almost 80 percent of countries with an LPA worldwide have set the legal age at 18.

In May 2022, Sun Chanthol, Minister for Public Works and Transport, announced plans to set a legal minimum age limit for alcohol consumption. Officials from his Ministry, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Health hoped to reach a consensus soon.

Building on the government’s announcement, the multi-stakeholder dialogue gave public and private stakeholders the chance to share their views on the topic.

The event, which was presided over by Min Meanvy, Secretary of State, Ministry of Public Works and Transport and Secretary-General of the National Road Safety Committee, was attended by key ministries, civil society and private sector representatives, international embassies and trade associations.

During the discussion, attendees looked at how a LPA would be implemented in Cambodia, and any implications and benefits. “There was an overall agreement on the importance of an LPA for Cambodia and the need to put one in place in the country,” the statement concluded.