The tobacco and alcohol menace
THE PRICE of fags
has gone up once again almost as a ritual ahead of the National
The Ceylon Tobacco Company has announced an increase in the
price of all popular brands of cigarettes by as much as Rs.1.50,
which is said to be the biggest ever price hike introduced.
There is little doubt that liquor too would follow suit.
No sensible person would oppose these price hikes, as the
adverse effects of these two evils are well known. The
Government’s Mathata Thitha programme has been so successful
that excise revenue has actually gone down. Attempts by various
groups to popularise smoking among the young generation have
Every Government since independence have used liquor and
cigarettes to rake in revenue by increasing excise taxes secure
in the knowledge that other than initial murmurs of protest,
diehard addicts would not kick the habit.
It is thus clear that much more needs to be done to wean them
away from this deadly habit, which imparts a massive health bill
to the State.
The other side of the coin is that a bootleg tobacco industry
has sprung up, depriving the State of millions of rupees. The
recent detection of Rs. 100 million worth illegally smuggled
cigarettes is a case in point.
Islandwide raids by excise officers also reveal the existence
of hundreds of moonshine outlets doing brisk business. They do
not pay a red cent to the State, but it has to spend heavily to
treat alcoholics who develop various diseases after consuming
the vile drinks.
Thus there has to be a compromise between taxes and the
affordability of legal liquor, as exorbitant prices can drive
imbibers to the illicit market. For example, there have been
calls to reduce taxes on soft liquor to drive people away from
With Sri Lanka ranked among the top boozers in the world, the
authorities face an uphill task. Their goal should be promoting
abstinence by persuasion rather than price increases alone.
Towards this end the Government should carry out a more vigorous
programme to educate the people of the evils of alcohol and
Alcohol and tobacco scenes are already being blocked on
television screens, which is a good start. There should be
counselling programmes to rehabilitate compulsive drinkers with
The Mathata Thitha programme should be taken to far-flung
villages where entire communities are hooked on the local brew.
Schools and civic organisations should be enlisted in the
exercise of carrying the Government’s message to the larger
The Jennings pisode
there was outrage and indignation expressed in many quarters on
the actions by certain student elements who sabotaged the naming
of a new hostel at the Peradeniya University after its founder
Sir Ivor Jennings.
Academic work was suspended as teachers boycotted lectures in
protest against the students’ action. This episode no doubt is a
reflection of the moral decline and deterioration of the
accepted norms and conduct of the new generation of students in
It is also a shocking revelation of the insensitivity to
one’s roots and heritage since Sir Jennings was the founder of
the Peradeniya University.
The conduct of these students is another example of the
dwindling values and ethos of the present generation that has
scant regard for all that is held in esteem and reverence. It is
also a testament to the rapid decline in discipline and ethical
values among the present day youth who seem to have broken away
from their moorings.
Time was when teachers were held in awe and reverence by the
students. The teachers on the other hand were martinets who
instilled discipline and moral values into their charges
including the gratitude and other virtues. Today the teachers
are guilty of setting a bad example to students by themselves
The Jennings episode is also an example of the crumbling
edifice of society where corruption has set in almost all
spheres. This deep malaise of indiscipline among the younger
generation should be seriously addressed by our policy makers
since it could be symptomatic of deep seated cancer eating into
our social fabric.
The Government therefore has a challenge before it to
maintain an orderly society entrenched in a value system.
Hooligans should not be allowed to take control of the lives and
destinies of our people.