The alcohol duty rates should be adjusted and health warnings labels should be added to the packaging of alcohol, the Hong Kong Medical Association suggested at a press conference on Sunday.

The Medical Association said that the World Health Organization classified alcohol as a Group 1 Carcinogenic last month, placing it in the same ranks as tobacco and processed meat, Apple Daily reported. Medical Association Chairman Louis Shih Tai-cho said that many believed red wine had good health effects for the heart, but there was insufficient evidence yet to support such a claim and medical professionals also do not endorse this view.

Alcohol beverages. Photo: jProgr via Deviantart.

According to the Medical Association, more young people have begun embracing the drinking culture. A study conducted by the Department of Health showed that in 2010, 7.4 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds binge drink, but the percentage went up to 9.8 percent in 2012.

Shih said that Hongkongers were not aware that there was no “safe amount” when it came to drinking and that even consuming small amounts of alcohol could increase the chances of cancer. Therefore, the government should educate the public more, he said.

The association also said that since the government exempted red wine and beer from duty in 2008, the supply and variety of alcohol beverages have increased and their prices have gone down, Ming Pao reported. As a result, more young people had started drinking. Hence, the Medical Association urged the government to adjust the levels of alcohol duty rates to improve the situation.

Medical Association press conference on Sunday.

It was also suggested that the government follow the practice in the US, France and other countries where the packaging of alcohol must carry warning labels and nutrition values. The public is warned of adverse health effects such as the diseases caused by drinking, its addictive nature and so on, which could help them think twice before purchasing alcohol.

Dr Chan Nim-tak, a council member at the association, said that grape juice and soda water tasted similar to beer and would make good replacements.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.