Today is World Temperance Day, but one day alone is insufficient to discuss and act on the issues which have arisen due to alcohol consumption and abuse in Sri Lanka, where alcohol dependence is a major health and social problem.
Alcohol consumption has become one of the main factors and causes of harm to the happiness, health and progress of people around the world while it also leads to health problems and adversely affects people’s lives, relationships with their family as well as society.
Alcohol consumption is also on the top of the lists of leading causes for early deaths and disabilities of people living in countries with lower to middle income economies.
Alcohol has been identified as one of the leading causes for around 60 diseases and illnesses while it also contributes to another 200 sicknesses.
It is estimated that about 65 people die in Sri Lanka daily due to alcohol related deaths. This amounts to over 23,000 deaths annually.
Meanwhile Sri Lankans spend roughly Rs 247 million per day on hard liquors and Rs 58 per day on beer.
However, the total expenditure for patients with health problems associated with alcohol is around Rs 145 billion, a figure which is greatly affecting the country’s economy, according to the government.
Alcohol and drug prevention organizations in the country say that although policies have been formulated in relation to alcohol, no legal drafts have been prepared to implement them.
They also highlight the fact that doubts exist with regard to implementing these policies specifically on the subjects of pricing, sale and investment.
In the year 2018, the prices of beer saw a drop mainly due to the slashing of the duty imposed on beer. But isn’t increasing the price of beer what should be done? According to the Alcohol & Drug Information Center (ADIC) beer consumption has significantly increased compared to previous years as a result of the price drop.
The risk of school children falling victim to alcohol due to the affordable prices of beer is another issue that organizations have brought up.
Therefore if the policies are to be properly implemented the prices of beer should be higher than the prices which had existed before 2018.
Presently the only noticeable outcome from World Temperance Day in Sri Lanka is the closure of liquor shops across the island.