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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2041

Should we repeat the same mistake?

By Manjari Peiris

Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga has called for the relaxing of restrictions placed on the sale of soft liquor. He stated that his plan was to remove restrictions on soft liquor and to make them freely available in order to boost tourism industry.

In the meantime, Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi, Director to the President, Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention responding to the Minister's statement said that he doubts as if any of these two ministries have done any scientific research to determine whether alcohol sales boost the country's tourism industry.

The consumption of alcohol over a period of time leads to deterioration of both physical and mental health, interpersonal relationships and smooth economic and social functions. Alcoholism also leads to deterioration of moral and spiritual standards and often destroys family life on a drastic scale

The Task Force on Drug Prevention has done several studies in collaboration with the University of Rajarata involving tourists, general public and media personnel on tourism. "Tourists visit Sri Lanka for sightseeing our beautiful destinations alone, but not for alcohol consumption. Planning to bring in relaxation amendments for alcohol policies therefore, will not benefit the tourists, government or general public at all. It would only benefit the alcohol companies." he said.

Currently more than two million tourists visit Sri Lanka a year and from the year 2010 onwards, the tourism industry has flourished very well.

Sri Lanka has the second highest rate of Cirrhosis in the world - 55/10,000 population. Consumption of more than 230 ml (1/4 bottle of arrack) for a period of time, undoubtedly leads to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the 6th leading cause of death in Sri Lanka and the fourth cause of admissions to government hospitals.

Of the total population, it is only 20 percent that consumes alcohol and this decision of relaxing restrictions on liquor sales would definitely challenge the 80 percent non-users. "In order to boost the tourist industry, should all outlets be allowed to sell liquor and be opened throughout the day?," he asked.

He stressed the point, that we should not disregard the 'measured and non-measured disadvantages of alcohol use'. "We should not forget that these amendments will encourage our younger generation to use alcohol. G.L.Peiris, in his 2005/2006 budget, did the same mistake through which thousands and thousands of school children initiated using beer and then arrack, other drugs and finally heroin.

The main reason for the increase in alcohol consumption nationwide is the ready and easy availability and accessibility of alcohol even in the remotest parts of the country via wine stores, restaurants, toddy taverns, hotels and even supermarkets.

"It is a proven fact that soft liquor and smoking is the gateway to other dangerous drugs. There is evidence to the fact that in 2006 there were 6000 drug addicts in the country and now it has risen up to more than 65,000.

We are a country that has been successful in implementing many alcohol control policies while many developed countries are still far behind us. In such circumstances, should we blindly follow what other countries do? he asked. We should do what is best and practical for us. " he affirmed.

President Maithripala Sirisena has very clearly stated his stance that the revenue earned from both alcohol and tobacco industries cannot be considered as "revenue for development of a country", hence the both products should be eliminated very soon.

- Asian Tribune –

Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi
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