Lo­cal al­co­hol ban might be go­ing too far

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - A PRO­POSED BAN

on sales of al­co­hol in Du­longjiang town­ship, South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince, has raised ques­tions over whether such a pro­hi­bi­tion is fea­si­ble. South­ern Me­trop­o­lis Daily com­mented on Fri­day:

The draft of the ban states that all al­co­holic drinks, from beer to cider, would be banned in­def­i­nitely. Be­cause drunk­en­ness causes great harm to the so­ci­ety, en­cour­ag­ing less con­sump­tion of al­co­hol is no doubt well-in­tended, but im­pos­ing an in­dis­crim­i­nate ban on the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol is go­ing too far.

It is worth not­ing that most at­tempts else­where to pro­hibit sales of al­co­hol have failed. Pro­hi­bi­tion in the United States from 1920 to 1933, for in­stance, not only failed to keep com­mu­ni­ties safer and al­co­hol-free, it also cre­ated more prob­lems such as the rise of the mafia, boot­leg­gers and rum-run­ners. The les­son to be drawn from such failed at­tempts to re­duce the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol is that pub­lic poli­cies can­not re­place per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The Du­longjiang author­i­ties are right to try to re­duce the ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of al­co­hol, as it is the cause of al­co­holism, traf­fic ac­ci­dents and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. But when it comes to the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol, tra­di­tions vary from one place to another, and it is im­por­tant that pol­i­cy­mak­ers do not over­step the bound­aries when ex­er­cis­ing pub­lic power.

Gov­ern­ments at the pre­fec­ture and town­ship level are at the fore­front of lo­cal gov­er­nance, and they might be tempted to seek once-and-for-all an­swers to solve the prob­lems caused by ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion, which is tra­di­tion­ally a lu­bri­cant for so­cial in­ter­ac­tions in ru­ral ar­eas. In Du­longjiang a par­tial re­stric­tion was in­tro­duced in Septem­ber to pro­hibit gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees from drink­ing al­co­hol dur­ing work hours and res­i­dents af­ter 10 pm. The lo­cal author­i­ties should make sure that ban worked be­fore is­su­ing a new one.

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