Beer Dispensing Machines Pulled Following Criticism
Mid-level executives have agreed to temporarily suspend the sale of draft beer in 7-Eleven convenience stores whilst they seek clarity from top management following criticism of the machines by anti-drinking groups and experts, who have said the draft beer dispensing machines set up at several Bangkok convenience stores this week were in a legal “grey area”.
Thai Health Promotion Foundation deputy manager Dr Bundit Sornpaisarn said the beer dispensers had originally been deemed legal as long as the logo was kept out of sight. However, convenience stores were normally licensed to sell what people had to drink at home – therefore the machines currently selling beer fell into a grey area, he said. “Once poured into cups, people have to drink it right away for the taste so they might end up drinking in the shops or in their cars,” he said. “Drinking alcohol in cars means a violation of the Alcohol Control Act 2008’s ban of drinking in vehicles and also poses a greater risk of road accidents.”
Stop Drink Network director Songkran Pakchokdee said it remained unclear if the convenience stores’ beer dispensers were legal or not and would be up to a court to decide. As no state officials had yet sought a clear definition, it would need experts to discuss the matter.
Songkran said it wasn’t right to let alcohol be freely sold as even one glass could undermine a person’s decision-making ability. “Illegal or not, this machine producing beer would contribute to the increasing number of drinkers, especially youths, so convenience stores should be aware and have a sense of social responsibility,” he said, adding that the idea of allowing beer-selling dispensers at nationwide convenience stores worried him.
On a recent visit to the Bangkok chain-store in question, a reporter saw a customer simply pay a shop assistant, who then pressed the button on a dispenser to fill a cup of beer for him. The shop also had seats available for people to use for as long as they liked. Faced with criticism, the store has since covered the beer dispenser with a white cloth to conceal its logo.
Meanwhile representatives of the Stop Drink Network and the Youth Network Against New Drinkers yesterday submitted their objections in a letter to executives at the convenience store. They called for the beer dispensers at its branches to be scrapped. They said such sales didn’t require clerks to check on customers’ age or drunkenness and would therefore boost youngsters’ access to alcohol and cause more alcohol-related deaths and casualties.
The group also urged the Public Health Ministry to provide a clear definition in relation to the alcohol dispensers and prohibit beer sales via dispensers at convenience stores because it should be only available only at licensed dine-in restaurants.