Keeping liquor stores closed a sound decision - SLMA | Daily News


Keeping liquor stores closed a sound decision - SLMA

Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA)’s Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs has responded to the comments made by the Department of Excise and some others in relation the ban on alcohol sales.

According to the Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMA), certain sections of the Excise Department seems to have taken strong exception to the decision to ban the sale of alcohol. It has tried to justify re-opening alcohol sales points, as reported in an article entitled “Government losing estimated Rs.15 Billion monthly tax revenue due to alcohol ban”  published recently in a daily newspaper.

“The Excise tax is a tax collected from the people. It is people’s money. When people cannot spend money on alcohol they will spend it on more essential and useful things such as food, especially in the current situation. This is not a hard concept to grasp, even by those who are less perceptive. If these persons cannot grasp this, it paints a very poor picture of the Department and its staff,” a SLMA spokesman said.

“What people of Sri Lanka need now is good nutrition and protection from disease, not spurious alcohol industry friendly arguments. The people of this country do not deserve the injuries, accidents, child abuse, domestic violence, depression, suicides, alcohol related strokes, heart attacks, cancers and cirrhosis right now. The health sector also does not need an explosion of patients with alcohol related accidents and medical conditions right now. The Police will be thankful for not having to deal with alcohol related incidents and accidents during the coming weeks,” he explained.

The article has stated that “illicit liquor trade is gaining ground with home breweries popping up across the country”. The spokesman said that one of the main functions of the Excise Department is to eliminate illicit alcohol production. “Are they turning a blind eye to such production, in order to use it as an excuse to open up liquor stores throughout the country, which will only benefit the alcohol trade ?,” the SLMA spokesman asked.

The myth of “revenue generation” from alcohol is propagated by the alcohol industry to obtain profits over the dead bodies of its customers. Millions die and fall sick from alcohol use around the world. A study conducted by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization has shown that the economic costs of alcohol use in Sri Lanka far outweigh the “revenue” generated. Therefore it will be actually profitable to the government keep alcohol selling points closed than keeping them open. However, some now seem to be more concerned about the alcohol trade profiting, rather than the well-being of people and the country.

According to the article “many have resorted to illicit liquor by setting up small units to distil spirits in their own homes”. It would be a great service to the country if they inform the other enforcement agencies of specific statistics and other details of this so-called “home breweries”, as they seem to be incapable or unwilling to address this, the SLMA spokesman noted.  It is very unlikely that there are thousands of such places in Sri Lanka. The spokesman suggested that if the Department cannot handle such small “home breweries”  for whatever reason, the Police should be called in to contain them.

They also blame a series of video tutorials shared on social media platforms for the recent spike in home breweries. Again, instead of giving such videos undue publicity in the national media, the relevant departments can better serve the country and the Excise Act by implementing the law against such videos.

The published article states that “these home-brewed spirits could contain harmful substances posing significant risks to the health of individuals as much as COVID-19 health risks”. The world would be well served if the research they have conducted on the effects of different types of alcohol on the body in comparison to the clinical outcomes of COVID 19 is published as soon as possible, the SLMA spokesman said. The current scientific consensus is that alcohol causes harm to the human body be it legal or illegal.

Illicit production is not anywhere near the approximately 14 million bulk Liters of alcohol (both beer and other alcohol) sold each month in Sri Lanka, the SLMA said.

Sending a letter to the President in order to appreciate the steps taken by him, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has stated that the President has intervened and instructed the relevant authorities to close all liquor shops in the country until further notice. We, the GMOA observe this as a timely and brave decision, reached in order to optimally manage the present COVID-19 outbreak. The GMOA Executive Committee would greatly appreciate your response in this regard and would unconditionally back the decisions of this nature,  in future too, the GMOA stated in the letter.

The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) is the national professional medical association in Sri Lanka, which brings together medical practitioners of all grades and all branches of medicine. The SLMA is the oldest professional medical association in Asia and Australasia, with a proud history that dates back to 1887. At its inception, it was called the ‘Ceylon Branch of the British Medical Association’. Later it evolved into the ‘Ceylon Medical Association’ (1951) and after Sri Lanka became a Republic in 1972, it became the ‘Sri Lanka Medical Association’. The Association aims to provide a forum for its members to further their professional and academic development.


On 26th February, 1887, a meeting was held at the Colonial Medical Library in Colombo, marking the first formal step in establishment of the Ceylon Branch of the British Medical Association. The branch was officially inaugurated on 17th December, 1887 with the participation of 19 members. Dr. Anthonisz became the first president of the Ceylon Branch of the British Medical Association. Following declaration of independence, the name of the association was changed as the Ceylon Medical Association in 1951. The association disengaged all connections with the British Medical Association in 1957. The current name “Sri Lanka Medical Association” was adopted, with the promulgation of the new democratic socialist republic. It celebrated its’ golden jubilee in 1937 with Sir Nicholas Attygalle as the President and Dr. E. M. Wijerama as the Honorary Secretary.

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