Until it was placed in the spotlight recently, the problem of alcoholism has been largely ignored.
While media attention has focused on alcohol consumption in Little India and Clarke Quay, ordinary Singaporeans in the heartland have been suffering in silence from the disturbances caused by uncontrolled and irresponsible drinking.
In my HDB estate, for example, residents are subjected to anti-social behaviour ranging from noise and fights among drinkers, some of whom are teenagers, to people urinating in public and domestic abuse.
We need to move beyond the current reactive measures towards a more holistic framework in dealing with alcoholism in Singapore.
Perhaps the Government should restrict access to alcoholic drinks by removing them from the shelves of convenience stores and petrol kiosks, and limiting supply to only supermarkets and specialised liquor shops between 11am and 9.30pm.
These items should be placed in obscure areas in shops, and children below the age of 18 should be prohibited from visiting these sections.
Within nightspots, last orders for alcoholic drinks should be made at least an hour before closing time, to allow time for patrons to sober up and leave the premises in a more steady state.
Open consumption of alcohol in public places, especially in residential areas in the heartland, should be banned between 11pm and 7am.
The Government could also consider requiring those purchasing alcohol to have their identity cards scanned.
Family members can apply for "exclusion orders" for their loved ones with drinking problems, and such identification checks would make it easier to enforce the ban.
To complement these measures, efforts can be made to raise awareness of the problem of alcohol addiction and the avenues for treatment.
This festive season, the "do not drink and drive" message should be reiterated.
Rather than getting hangovers from excessive late-night drinking, why not celebrate Christmas and the new year with a morning stroll along Singapore's beautiful park connectors instead?
Liew Kai Khiun
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