Malaysia announced last week its intention to raise the age its citizens may legally drink alcohol. The current legal age for alcohol consumption is 18, but this is now set to raise to 21 in early 2016.

Lawmakers are reacting to what they claim to be recent increases in underage drinking.

The Malaysian Government also plans to introduce labelling requirements. Labels must detail the negative health consequences of drinking alcohol, including cancer.

Malaysia is a Muslim country. Over ninety percent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim. Muslims are renowned for their anti-alcohol stance. However, Malaysia is where many international brewery companies have established their Asian HQ. This includes Guinness and Carlsberg. Malaysia is a powerhouse for the exportation of alcohol products to other countries in the region such as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. These exports are worth over $400 million per annum for the Malaysian economy.

Malaysia’s largest alcohol industry consortium, the confederation of Malaysian Brewers Berhad, says around 3.5 million Malaysians drink alcohol on a regular basis.

Malaysia currently levies the highest excise taxes on alcohol than anywhere else in Asia.

Malaysia is not unique in Asia for passing tough laws on the sale of alcohol. For instance, Indonesia is considering legislation that will impose an outright ban on alcohol consumption, together with a jail sentence for people who defy the law. This would put Indonesia on the same footing as other Muslim countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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