Reconsider proposed law promoting youth alcohol sale

The Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organisations (SUNGO) has appealed to the Government to reconsider enacting laws that would enable 18-year-old youth to sell alcohol.

Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, revealed this in a recent interview with the Samoa Observer that the Government is considering a law to enable 18-year-olds to sell alcohol as a “form of employment”.

But SUNGO Chief Executive Officer, Fuimaono Falefa Lima, told this newspaper that there are other forms of employment which the Government can consider for 18-year-olds but selling alcohol.

“There are other forms of employment that can be created by the business communities and Government, but not in liquor." 

“I believe the drinking age here is 21 – now you are starting to expose them by allowing 18-year-olds to be involved in the retail – and the selling of alcohol." 

“It’s really exposing youths. It’s interesting that they allow them to sell and be involved in the liquor business, but they don’t allow them to drink,” he said.

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The risk of the youth consuming their own alcohol are high, Fuimaono added, and there are risks that this proposed bill – if passed into law – will add to the alcohol-related problems currently being encountered in the villages.  

Under the Government-sponsored new Alcohol Control Bill 2019 – which was tabled at the recent Parliament session – 18-year-olds will be allowed to sell alcohol, provided that they are supervised by someone who is 21 years and older.

Fuimaono said the Government should look at other sectors that are less risky and will not have long-term implications for the community. 

“There are many youths unemployed, many completing schools. There will be a lot more people out there seeking for work, so Government needs to look at opportunities at other sectors."

“There are also a lot of road accidents that are caused by drinking, and exposing these youths to selling alcohol at the early age will add to those problems,” he added. 

There is a need for communities and villages to be fully aware of the issue, he said, as many problems occurring in these areas are alcohol-related.

“Allowing youths up to that age to sell liquor is a concern, because it means it further increases the availability of liquor to the public – when already they have that view that problems in terms of family violence, youth conflicts, and even the elders’ access and drinking alcohol in the villages are a big problem." 

“From their perspective, they would like something to be done to minimise the availability of liquor in the village, and a lot of members of SUNGO in the village communities also sit in village councils – where they discuss a lot of issues brought into the villages relating to alcohol availability and consumption by youth.”

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