ADIC, SLMA urge govt. to not reduce alcohol prices

Medical officers representing the Alcohol and The Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) and Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) urged the government not to take any decision on reducing the price of alcohol products for the betterment of the 80 percent majority who do not drink alcohol, yesterday.

They were commenting on requests made by certain people even in the Parliament, to reduce the price of beer by giving tax relief from the Budget 2018, claiming that it would be helpful to reduce the consumption of illicit alcohol (kasippu).

They charged that only 10 percent of country’s population consume illicit alcohol and the government should pay its attention to protect the 80 percent of country’s population who are non-consumers, from addiction to alcohol. Decrease of prices will only benefit beer companies and not the country or its people.

They further charged that only 20 percent of total population use any kind of alcohol and alcohol industries try to expand their customer base, targeting the 80 percent majority of the non-user population to drag them in by keeping arrack and beer at low prices compared to inflation rate and thereby increase the affordability and availability of alcohol. Addressing the media yesterday at the Government Information Department, ADIC Executive Director Pubudu Sumanasekara said that any decision taken on alcohol must be evidence-based and that it is not only a finance matter. The Finance Ministry must consult experts and professionals in the alcohol control field, especially the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA).

The timely need of the country is to introduce recommendations to control alcohol use and reduce its availability by regulating alcohol taxes by the government in way to ensure not to repeat the wrong decisions taken by previous governments.

If any of wrong decision was taken into action, the whole country will have to suffer from it and it will take much longer time and effort to reverse the negative outcomes it may cause. Tax relief on beer will only benefit alcohol industries and not the 80 percent of majority who do not drink alcohol.

Alcohol and Tobacco Control Expert Committee member in SLMA Sujeewa Ranaweera said that in year 2016, the economic harm done by alcohol is around Rs. 141 billion. At present, strong beer production has increased and the per capita alcohol consumption has come into the highest degree in the history.

This condition will negatively impact on the social and economical status of the country.

He proposed that the Alcohol Policy which was approved by Parliament in 2015, should be taken into action for better alcohol control in the country.

Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and other Drugs (CAN) Director Hakan Leifman said that when calculating the alcohol production quantities for past 25 years, the alcohol percentage included in alcohol beverages has increased gradually.

The alcohol percentage in beer sold in Sri Lanka is much higher compared to the alcohol percentage of beer in other countries. He said that the taxes on beer should not be reduced in any country, claiming that Finland did it a few years ago and they couldn’t reverse the mistake they did. 

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