The Indonesian House of Representatives is deliberating a bill that aims to prohibit the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic drinks containing between 1 and 55 per cent alcohol. However, there are no comprehensive studies on the adverse effects of alcohol in Indonesia. Alcohol consumption levels in Indonesia appear low when compared to other countries. Only about 500,000 Indonesians consume alcoholic beverages, mostly hard liquor.
The Indonesian government already pursues a range of policies to discourage alcohol consumption. It has imposed taxes and customs tariffs to increase retail prices. Foreign investment restrictions have further inflated prices of hard liquor. Beer and wine became less accessible due to a ban on sales in small shops and minimarkets. In addition, several local governments have already imposed alcohol prohibition within their jurisdictions.
With alcohol being expensive and difficult to obtain, Indonesians drink five times more unrecorded than legally purchased and distributed liquor. Unrecorded alcohol can contain methanol, which is highly toxic and leads to seizures, organ failure and death. Many cases are being reported all across the country and indicate that trade restrictions cause counterfeit alcohol and dangerous mixtures to substitute legally traded alcohol.
It is being argued in this study that more data need to be gathered and analysed before a law regulating the production, distribution and consumption of alcoholic beverages should be enacted. Existing data suggest that the Indonesian government needs to worry less about the consumption of legal alcohol. Instead, it should put more emphasis on reducing the production, circulation and consumption of counterfeit alcohol in Indonesia.
The currently deliberated prohibition of legal alcohol will potentially cause severe risks to human health. It will push the alcohol distribution underground and out of control of the government and negatively affect public security. And it will disproportionately affect low-income households because wealthy Indonesians continue to access legal vendors in tourist destination, luxury restaurants and hotels.