Changing of national alcohol policies according to the Finance Ministry’s whims and fancies was undemocratic action, the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) said.
The ADIC called on the President, religious leaders, ministers, experts, professionals and all responsible parties to take action against the formulation which it said are “undemocratic and arbitrary decisions” which are only beneficial to the alcohol industry and harmed public health and the economy of the country.
In the statement, it said
“The present government has made several changes to the alcohol policies such as the increase in the limit for liquor in possession from 7.5 litres to 80 litres (Approximately an increase from 10 bottles to 80 bottles).
“When considering the above facts, it is clear these decisions were not taken due to a public request or to resolve any major problem within the country. Further, as all the above decisions were beneficial to the alcohol industry, these decisions significantly harmed the economy of the country (the health cost alone due to alcohol was about Rs. 120 Billion in 2015),” it said.
“The changes made to the alcohol policies includes a tax relief given to beer companies citing the floods as the reasoning, excise tax cuts implemented on beer, resulting in a loss of Rs.76.40 per bottle of beer, and even though taxes were increased for several types of alcohol, tax was not increased for arrack, the statement said.
“In Sri Lanka, alcohol use prevalence among males above 18 years old is 35%, which means the majority live free from alcohol (abstain). Our country does not have an alcohol culture either. In this context, it is unavoidable that decisions such as the above will encourage more alcohol use among Sri Lankans and create an alcohol culture within the country, which would be making alcohol industry expectations a reality,” the statement added.
“According to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka, every 8 out of 10 deaths in Sri Lanka are categorised as avoidable deaths. Under major risk factors for these deaths, tobacco use and alcohol use takes the first and second places, respectively.
Approximately 40 to 50 deaths occur, per day, due to alcohol use within the country. It is disappointing that the Ministry of Finance does not consult with the experts who possess scientific knowledge on alcohol such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) when making decisions about alcohol which causes serious repercussions for public health and economy of the country,” it said.