Illustrative image (Photo: The Hindu)

Hanoi (VNA) - Muslim-majority Malaysia has decided to raise its minimum age for alcohol consumption to 21 from the current 18 to stem underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

The new threshold will go into effect on December 1, 2017 along with a new requirement that manufacturers add warnings on the health dangers of alcohol consumption to their product labels, Health Minister S. Subramaniam has said.

Businesses serving alcoholic beverages must display similar notices.

Subramaniam said the step was in line with the "Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol," an effort spearheaded by the World Health Organisation.

The New Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying certain types of cheaply produced liquor were "creating a social problem among the lower-income group."

More than 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim, and Islam - which bans alcohol consumption - is the official religion.

Malaysia has some of Asia's highest excise taxes on alcohol, according to the Confederation of Malaysian Brewers.

Various public-health studies have suggested that drinking rates have been rising.

The brewer's confederation says Malaysia has an estimated drinking population of 3.5 million people, out of a total of around 30 million.-VNA