World

Japan wants young people to drink more alcohol

August 19, 2022 1:00 pm

Since the pandemic began, bars and other premises selling alcohol have been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions, causing sales -- and liquor tax revenues -- to plummet in the world's third-largest economy. [Source: CNN News]

The Japanese government has been hit in the pocket by an unusual problem — its young people aren’t drinking enough.

Since the pandemic began, bars and other premises selling alcohol have been hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions, causing sales — and liquor tax revenues — to plummet in the world’s third-largest economy.

The government’s solution? Launch a contest to find new ways to encourage young people to drink more.

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The “Sake Viva!” campaign, overseen by the National Tax Agency, invites participants to submit ideas on how to “stimulate demand among young people” for alcohol through new services, promotional methods, products, designs and even sales techniques using artificial intelligence or the metaverse, according to the official competition website.

“The domestic alcoholic beverage market is shrinking due to demographic changes such as the declining birthrate and ageing population, and lifestyle changes due to the impact of Covid-19,” said the website, adding that the competition aimed to “appeal to the younger generation … and to revitalize the industry.”

The contest includes promotional ideas for all types of Japanese alcohol, with applications open until September 9. Finalists will be invited to expert consultation in October, before a final tournament in November in Tokyo. The winner will receive support for their plan to be commercialized, according to the tax office.

But not everyone is on board, with the competition and tax agency receiving criticism from some people online.

“Are you kidding me?” one Twitter user wrote. “Staying away from alcohol is a good thing!”

Others pointed out that it seemed inappropriate for a government agency to encourage young people to drink, and it appeared the campaign had not considered health risks or sensitivity toward people dealing with alcoholism.

Japan’s Health Ministry has in the past warned of the dangers of excessive drinking. In a post on its website last year, it called excessive alcohol consumption a “major social problem” that persisted despite a recent slowdown in consumption. And it urged people with unhealthy drinking habits to “reconsider” their relationship with alcohol.

A ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the tax agency’s competition when contacted by CNN.