SLMA urges Govt to stop alcohol sale
The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) urged the Government to take immediate steps to discontinue the sale of alcohol and withhold permission for internet sale of alcohol.
In a letter addressed to Finance Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, SLMA President Dr. Padma Gunaratne and the Chairperson of the SLMA’s Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs (ECTAID), Prof. NaradaWarnasuriya warned that it could only intensify health social and economic issues for both the Government and the public.
Expressing serious concern regarding sale of alcohol even before the quarantine curfew had been lifted, the duo warned that it would only result in people gathering outside liquor shops and bars spending whatever little money they have on alcohol and thereby increasing domestic violence, child abuse and road accidents.
“Some may even organise alcoholcentred gatherings at their homes increasing the likelihood of further spreading the highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 that is circulating in the country,” the duo lamented.
The move would also increase the burden on the health sector which would have to manage the extra cases of the virus in addition to the other preventable repercussions of alcohol consumption, they said.
The SLMA duo noted that it would also contribute in hindering the effort made by the government during this period to ensure that needy families had enough food by distribution of funds to those in need.
“As you are aware, scientific studies have shown that the economic costs of alcohol in Sri Lanka surpass the revenue collected,” they said noting that the move would only have an extremely negative impact on health, social and economic aspects.
The SLMA President and the ECTAID Chairman also expressed serious concern of the move to allow internet sales of alcohol as reported in the media. The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act (NATA) No.26 of 2006 expressly prohibits advertising alcohol on the internet.
It would also avoid the age, time and place restrictions mandated for alcohol sales in Sri Lanka through the Excise Ordinance and the NATA Act. “The issue of sale of illicit alcohol has been brought up many times by the alcohol industry and the Excise Department in the past, to justify allowing alcohol sales in liquor shops and over the internet during the quarantine curfew, the two medical experts observed.
Since the primary task of the Excise Department is to enforce laws related to alcoholespecially those related to illicit liquor within the country, they should be prosecuting the perpetrators, rather than issue Press statements helpful to the liquor industry implying that the Department was unable to enforce its own mandate”.(DJ)