SLMA calls for more regulations, tax on alcohol | Daily News

SLMA calls for more regulations, tax on alcohol

Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) yesterday strongly urged the Finance Ministry to refrain from reducing the price of alcohol in the budget proposals of 2019.

A country can most certainly be enriched by the good health status and wellbeing of its citizens with the increase of alcohol prices. The SLMA, therefore, being the apex of all academic and professional medical association of Sri Lanka, strongly urges the Finance Ministry to refrain from granting any tax concessions to the alcohol industry, the SLMA in a media release said.

The SLMA expressed its concern in relation to the significant reduction in taxation of beer, which was implemented through the budget of 2017. “We, therefore, request the Finance Ministry to increase the taxation of beer, at least to the levels before this tax reduction was implemented. We also request that there should be no relaxation of alcohol retailing regulations at all in the budget of 2019,” the SLMA statement noted.

The SLMA pointed out that it is firmly established that decreasing the prices of alcohol products will increase its consumption.

The SLMA said many false arguments have been raised directly and indirectly by the alcohol industry which firmly opposes increasing taxation. “An increase in taxes and simultaneously in the price of alcohol will increase the government revenue and at the same time reduce alcohol consumption. Such a measure will enable the government to collect more revenue and simultaneously reduce the enormous social, economic and health consequences of alcohol consumption,” the statement said.

The SLMA said the alcohol industry uses the convenient slogan of illicit alcohol or “kasippu” to mislead successive governments to stop this effective policy measure of increasing the price of alcohol and the illicit trade should be dealt with by appropriate law enforcement (Police & Excise Department) and not by price reduction of alcohol.

The statement further said that the majority of the adult population in Sri Lanka does not indulge in alcohol. According to the STEPS survey, 2015 of the Health Ministry and WHO, the use of alcohol among males over 15 years was 35 per cent, and less than 1 per cent among females. Over 80 per cent of the population over 15 years in Sri Lanka are not users of alcohol now.

We wish to reiterate that any policy measures taken on alcohol should ensure that this vast “non-drinking” population is not pushed towards use of alcohol. Prices and availability are two major forces of such consumption.

If the spirits users are to be shifted to beer, the price difference between these types of alcohol should be increased. In the Sri Lankan context, what should be done is to increase the price of spirits and not decrease the price of beer.

WHO unequivocally recommends that alcohol prices should be increased to reduce the consumption. Contrary to popular belief, all alcohol users are not “addicts” - less than 10 per cent of all alcohol users are dependent. Most “heavy” drinkers too are not dependent. WHO states that increasing prices of alcohol will even reduce the use among heavy drinkers.

The poorer segments of society who spend about 1/3 of their income on smoking and alcohol will reduce their consumption of these substances when the prices of these are increased. This would help to reduce health inequality and poverty, the statement said.


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