Thailand Cracking Down on Alcohol Advertising

Chang Beer Girl cut outs seen in Thailand

Thailand & Alcohol Advertising

As early as 2006 Alcohol advertising laws were adopted in Thailand but went largely unnoticed due to the subsequent coup that happened in 2007. In 2008 the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act came into existence which prohibits the advertising of alcoholic beverages anywhere, including inside of a bar. Even though the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act and various other laws have been in place they haven’t been enforced…until now.

This week Pattaya bars found out how serious the Thai government is about this as a joint task force of Pattaya and Bangkok police went throughout the town visiting bars and giving warnings that they must begin to comply with the law immediately. Not only are outside signs advertising alcoholic beverages illegal but any signs inside as well, including beer taps, beer cozy’s and unfortunately those famous Singha girls that occasionally visit bars in their skimpy little Singha uniforms.

Singha girl advertising Singha Beer

Now, at first glance this is the stupidest law I have ever heard of enforced in Thailand. Think about this for a minute…you can walk into any bar in Thailand and order a Heineken that clearly has a a Heineken label affixed to the bottle and you will be fine legally. Now, wrap that cold Heineken bottle in a Heineken labeled beer cozy  and the owner of said bar can be fined 500,000 Baht and or jailed! Anyone else see a problem here?

Before I go too far; there are some serious underlying issues behind these laws that warrant looking into but this is not the way to do it.

Obviously there is a drinking problem in Thailand from underage drinking to drinking and driving as well as the rising rate of alcoholism in Thai males and the Thai government is looking for ways to stop it.

Unfortunately this will work as well as the cigarette advertising campaign worked. The advertising of cigarettes is illegal in Thailand as well and each cigarette pack must carry one of several dire warnings related to cigarette usage and health, for those who can’t read they make sure you understand with very graphic pictures.

Smoking Kills

What about warnings for alcohol bottles you ask? You guessed it, they are coming up shortly.

The following 6 types of pictorial labels and warning statements of disadvantages and dangers of alcoholic beverages shall be labeled in accordance with the templates as appeared in the annex :

Type 1 “Drinking alcohol causes the hypertension liver cirrhosis”

Type 2 “Drunk driving causes disability or death”

Type 3 “Drinking alcohol leads to unconsciousness and even death”

Type 4 “Drinking alcohol leads to sexual impotency”

Type 5 “Drinking alcohol leads to adverse health effect and family problems

Type 6 “Drinking alcohol is a bad role model for children and young people”

The display of pictorial labels and warning statements of disadvantages and dangers of alcoholic beverages shall be made in compliance with the following criteria:
If the packaging is in the square shape, the size of the pictorial labels and warning statement shall not be less than 50 percent of the side that has the maximum space or the sides that are considered as front and back side of the packaging;
If the packaging is in the round or cylindrical shape, the size of the warning statement shall not be less than 30 percent of the total packaging’s surface space;
If the packaging is of the other shapes than as specified in (1) and (2), the size of the warning statement shall not be less than 30 percent of the total packaging’s surface space.

To prepare the pictorial labels and warning statement of disadvantages and dangers of alcoholic beverages, the alcoholic producers or importers shall use the original format that is prepared by the Office of the Alcohol Beverage. However, the size can be adjusted as deemed appropriate, provided that the ratio of vertical and horizontal cannot be changed.
Clause 5:  The display of the pictorial labels and warning statement of disadvantages and dangers of alcoholic beverages as mentioned in Clause 4 shall be placed on the packaging or other covered-up materials that permanently sticking on the packaging and shall not be easily peeled off or destroyed.

I don’t see the problem with warning labels on alcohol bottles and I have absolutely no problem with not allowing alcohol advertising in the open such as street signs, liquor store fronts, bars etc. but inside of bars is, well, just plain stupid. Keep it from the eyes of children by all means but keeping alcohol advertising from someone drinking alcohol in a bar in Thailand makes no sense.

Unfortunately this will do little to curb Thailand’s growing alcohol problem. You may very well point to the cigarette advertising ban and say “yes, but surely this has done some good?” The answer, sadly, would be NO. The number of Thai women smokers is expected to drastically rise from 1,664,000 in 2000 to 12 million in 2025. Yes, the cigarette packs look bad but it stops no one from smoking.

And just in case you don’t think the Thai government is very serious this time then have a talk with the Manager of Insomnia night club in Pattaya. The police conducted a raid of the night club Wednesday night in which they found foam beer bottle covers( beer cozy’s) advertising alcoholic beverages and also found advertising around the bar and in the toilets in contravention of Section 32 of the Alcoholic Beverage Act. The manager of the club, Khun Posapon aged 25 was duly arrested and taken to Pattaya Police Station and charged in relation to the illegal advertising.

The law on the books actually falls under the various health departments who are now enforcing the law with the help of the police. Don’t think this is just the normal yearly crackdown of sorts that happens in Pattaya, this is a nationwide campaign and all bars will be getting a visit from the local Health dept and police.

Just look at these poor girls, whatever will become of them now that they are out of a job? They can’t even afford clothes as it is! Maybe Thailand will settle down on this in a few months time.

Leo Calender Girls


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13 Responses to Thailand Cracking Down on Alcohol Advertising
  1. Mike
    July 9, 2010 | 8:59 am

    Talen, a good post and yet another example of “this is Thailand” in my opinion.

    Thailand does have a huge problem with drinking and drink driving.

    But they already have plenty of legislation to cover such issues but as your article points out they have just decided to enforce the law.

    Who knows maybe next the police will actually enforce traffic law and lock up some drunk drivers. Far more effective than banning beer coasters in a go-go bar

    I wonder if they will put similar labels on drinking water, which given the quality of the stuff that comes out of the taps, might serve a better purpose. However since we haven’t had any water for two days a warning would seem inappropriate. :-)
    Mike recently posted..Getting Around Bangkok-Skytrain and MRTMy Profile

    • Talen
      July 9, 2010 | 9:10 am

      Mike, I am with you on the warning labels for the drinking water. It does seem silly that beer coasters could land someone in jail when they really need to focus their attention on the families.

      They should put warning labels on alcohol bottles…this is acceptable and they could even make the manufacturers contribute to an educational campaign but preaching to the choir as it were never works…especially if they are drunk.

  2. Catherine
    July 9, 2010 | 1:53 pm

    Ok, I might be a gal, but I’m going to miss the drinks girls running around in their skimpies.

    Whenever I take a male visitor out on the town in Bangkok, they become quite subdued at the presence of the young beauties.

    And as I like to enjoy my meal in the quiet, I prefer it that way.

    I just request a second toilet roll to wipe the drool off their chins is all.
    Catherine recently posted..iPhone apps- English Thai DictionariesMy Profile

    • Talen
      July 10, 2010 | 7:39 am

      Cat, I do love me some Singha and Chang girls, and just think of the money that could have been made off of drool cloths or buckets…sad…so sad.

  3. ChuckWow
    July 9, 2010 | 2:21 pm

    I expect something silly like this in the United States not Thailand.

    As you mentioned, to solve this and many more social problems they really need to focus their attention on the family where the fundamental education occurs.

    It is a shame though – I will miss the Chang Beer girls plying their trade in the Nakhon Sawan Big C food court.

    • Talen
      July 10, 2010 | 7:41 am

      Chuck, The U.S. had a very similar yet more stupid law. It is illegal for alcohol companies to advertise on billboards in inner cities such as Baltimore and other places. Unfortunately there are at least 2 liquor stores per block and they had walls and walls of signs that the law didn’t cover.

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  5. vange
    July 11, 2010 | 8:18 am

    The cigarette packages crack me up.
    vange recently posted..“LeBron- The Decision” Summer’s Hottest Reality Game ShowMy Profile

  6. BKK drinker
    July 11, 2010 | 8:10 pm

    In Silom soi 4, the bars took down their alcohol brand advertising signs in compliance with the new law. Then came a new bar, For Fun, (in the old Roxy location) that has so many alcohol brand signs on the outside it looks like a sign-collector’s museum! But it’s part-owned by a police officer, so it is getting away with it.

    • Talen
      July 12, 2010 | 4:19 am

      BKK, you know the saying TiT ( this is Thailand ) I am sure the beer bars I know of in Pattaya owned by police officers and ex army officers still have advertising up as well.

  7. Martyn
    July 12, 2010 | 2:10 pm

    Talen the new laws are outrageous. I agree that putting warnings on the bottles is a sensible stance to take but advertising inside the bars shouldn’t be banned. A 500,000 baht fine is way way over the top.

    Isn’t this the same country which less than two years ago tried to lure tourists to the Land of Smiles by getting themselves wan*ered on an alcoholic mix called Siam Sunray. There would appear to be more than 360 degrees in Thailand’s circle. Unbelievable.

    Are you trying to tell me that in 15 years time young Wilai will be having crafty cigarettes hanging out the bathroom window. That is unbelievable too.
    Martyn recently posted..Pattaya – Dressing Up the Bar GirlMy Profile

  8. Michael hunter
    September 19, 2010 | 3:53 am

    The new laws are crazy, I like things the way they where, change sucks.

    • Talen
      September 24, 2010 | 7:15 pm

      Mike, they will be forgotten soon enough…as a matter of fact most bars I have been in have advertising up again already.