With the introduction of a government policy on alcohol Mathata Thitha, the Health Policy Programme was engaged in a series of studies focusing on modifying the drinking habit, action against illicit alcohol, taxation of legal alcohol and its impact which were the main topics discussed. Funded by industry stakeholders, the series of studies conducted were as follows:
Series 1: A Study on the State of the Sri Lankan Alcohol Industry 2006
This is a study into the Sri Lankan Alcohol Industry with reference to existing and proposed legislation under the National Authority on Alcohol and Tobacco Bill aiming to regularise and control alcohol consumption. An attempt has been made here to provide an overview of the current global alcohol consumption trends and the context of Sri Lankan alcohol consumption upon this background.
Reasearch Team: G. D. Dayaratne, Himashi Gunasekara
Series 2: Impact Assessment as a Result of the 1 Km Sacred Area Rule on Liquor Sales: 2006
In Sri Lanka, the Parliament passed the Tobacco and Alcohol Authority Bill in June 2006 presented by the Government seeking approval for the establishment of a National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol especially aimed at discouraging children from smoking and consuming alcohol.
Prior to the implementation of the provisions of the above Bill, another prohibitive law has been gazetted on 3 August 2006 to prohibit liquor sales outlets in areas surrounding sacred areas. The Law gazetted prohibits alcohol sales within 1 km of the sacred area, but provides for many venues for drinking of alcohol, including tourist hotels, festivals, etc. The Law does not clearly emphasize the objective of the introduction of the rule, whether it is to reduce alcohol consumption or whether only the liquor sales outlet has been seen as a deterrent to the sacred area concept, while nevertheless leaving out thriving chronic anti-social cells in the area.
Research Team: G. D. Dayaratne, Ruwan Jayathilake
Series 3: A Framework for Formulating a National Alcohol Policy 2009 (Background paper and analysis to guide government policy on alcohol)
Alcohol policies are those regulations, laws and rules that govern the manufacture, promotion, distribution, sale, and use of alcohol. Looking at the history of alcohol legislation applied and effected in the country in the past, it would be wise to simply view such alcohol legislation from the perspective of prohibition and denial. But it should be noted that a great part of policy formation the world over during the past century has been incremental, deliberate, and accepting of adults drinking in moderation (Babor et al., 2003). More recently, there has been a growing interest in the scientific study of alcohol policy as a useful ally in combating the ill-effects of bad policies and therefore an attempt has been made here to equip decision-makers to make informed policy choices in light of the current situation on alcohol production, sales, and consumption in the country.
Series 4: A Proposal to Enhance Government Revenue by Reducing Consumption of Pure Alcohol
An attempt has been made in this study to explore and introduce untapped revenue resources hidden within the excise tax regime which could be harvested if properly implemented. In this context, higher rate of consumption of pure alcohol provides justification for government intervention with special excise duties, and rationalization of harmful imports to reduce the social cost of providing policing and health services that is not otherwise covered by the price of the product. The social costs of alcohol also need to be considered in relation to the economic benefit such as saving of foreign exchange involved .On the other hand, the state coffers do not receive the total taxable income, for the reason that a substantial amount of liquor produced within the country does not fall under the tax bracket. The segment that does deprive the government revenue is known as the “illegal alcohol industry” sector which sells liquor at the same price as the legal product and probably using the same channels, but does not pay taxes. Author focuses his attention to introduce taxation on alcohol by volume which is directed at pure alcohol concentration. As it appears that high strength alcohol consumers’ demand is price inelastic, government is in a position to collect more revenue from liquor while indirectly modifying the drinking habit as alcohol excise taxes are used both to discourage consumption, relative to non-alcoholic drinks, and to modify drinking patterns, relative to alcohol products with lower percentage of alcohol by volume.
Series 5: Industry and Governing Policies: A Review of the State of Sri Lanka’s Alcohol Industry
In recent years there have been a number of developments relevant to the alcohol policy. Greatest public support is typically granted to policy measures that are not seen as intrusive to the moderate or occasional drinkers and do not penalize the alcohol industry.
Some comparative analyses of the comments made by the stakeholders have indicated that level of public support for a policy may reflect a reaction to a particular policy. For example, a comparison of the actual policies and views on what is practiced, suggests that the general public is less supportive of restrictive policies (where access measures are more intrusive) and more supportive of policies that involve lower levels of access control.
Research Team: G.D. Dayaratne, Sunimalee Madurawala