Taxation the key to ending alcohol abuse | Daily News


Taxation the key to ending alcohol abuse

A righteous ruler who rules his kingdom with high moral standards is described in Buddhism. The Buddha taught us that a righteous ruler must develop ten-fold virtues. In the teachings of the Buddha, it is also said that the righteous ruler after practicing these ten merits needs to rule his kingdom according to “Ten Ruling Laws of Dhamma” (Dasa Raja Dharma). The righteous ruler should protect his subjects under a kingdom of Dhamma. He should honour, worship, and practice the ten meritorious deeds and live under a flag of these ten merits.

In the Rajja Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha asked; “Is it impossible to rule without destroying and enabling destruction, without conquering and without defeating, without bewailing and without making others bewail?"

As claimed by the ten-fold virtue of a ruler explained in the Dasavidha-Rajadhamma, it is the responsibility of a ruler to protect first the royal family, the defense of the royal army, then the administrative staff being ministers and members of Parliament, all the citizens, religious leaders, and finally animals.

According to ten-fold virtues of a ruler, he should stop offence within the kingdom, and the root cause for many of them being alcohol, its use should not be promoted. The good ruler should support and provide relief to the poor and the sick, frequently visit religious leaders who are practicing moral qualities and eradicate defilements so as to learn about the good and bad and seek their advice.

These virtues have been reflected within President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The Government should not allow promotion of alcohol use in this country, which would be in accordance with the fifth precept. Buddhism itself clearly shows that excessive drinking causes the decline of a country. Taxes earned from liquor sales often hurt citizens in many ways and many respects.

We are also fortunate to have a committed and capable Health Minister, Pavithra Wanniarachchi working under the President’s leadership to promote people's well-being and good health. We are grateful to both of you.

Harmful use of alcohol

The harmful use of alcohol has a serious effect on public health and is considered to be one of the main risk factors for poor health globally. The concept of the harmful use of alcohol is broad and encompasses the drinking that causes detrimental health and social consequences for the drinker, the people around the drinker and society at large, as well as the patterns of drinking that are associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes. The harmful use of alcohol compromises both individual and social development. It can ruin the lives of individuals, devastate families, and damage the fabric of communities.

The harmful use of alcohol is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and is listed as the third leading risk factor for premature deaths and disabilities in the world.

A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to harmful drinking arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes and violence, and suicides. Fatal injuries attributable to alcohol consumption tend to occur in relatively young people.

The current relevant health, cultural and market trends worldwide relevant to harmful use of alcohol will continue to be a global health issue. Therefore, these trends should be recognized and appropriate responses implemented at all levels.

Policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol must reach beyond the health sector, and engage such sectors as development, transport, justice, social welfare, fiscal policy, trade, agriculture, consumer policy, education and employment.

Preventing and reducing harmful use of alcohol is often given a low priority among decision-makers despite compelling evidence of its serious public health effects. In addition, there is a clear discrepancy between the increasing availability and affordability of alcohol beverages in many low- and middle-income countries and those countries’ capability and capacity to meet the additional public health burden that follows. Unless this problem is given the attention it deserves, the spread of harmful drinking practices and norms will continue.

Production, distribution, marketing and sales of alcohol create employment and generate considerable income for economic operators and tax revenue for governments at different levels. Public health measures to reduce harmful use of alcohol are sometimes judged to be in conflict with other goals like free markets and consumer choice and can be seen as harming economic interests and reducing Government revenues. Policy-makers face the challenge of giving an appropriate priority to the promotion and protection of population health while taking into account other goals, obligations and interests.

There is a great need to develop and implement effective policies and programmes that reduce such social disparities both inside a country and between countries. Such policies are also needed in order to generate and disseminate new knowledge about the complex relationship between alcohol and social and health inequity, particularly among indigenous populations, minority or marginalized groups and in developing countries.

The protection of the health of the population by preventing and reducing the harmful use of alcohol is a public health priority.

Intoxication with alcohol seriously affects a person’s judgement, coordination and other motor functions. Alcohol-impaired driving is a significant public health problem that affects both the drinker and in many cases innocent parties. Strong evidence-based interventions exist for reducing drink– driving. Strategies to reduce harm associated with drink–driving should include deterrent measures that aim to reduce the likelihood that a person will drive under the influence of alcohol, and measures that create a safer driving environment in order to reduce both the likelihood and severity of harm associated with alcohol-influenced crashes.

Consumers, including heavy drinkers and young people, are sensitive to changes in the price of drinks. Pricing policies can be used to reduce underage drinking, to halt progression towards drinking large volumes of alcohol and/or episodes of heavy drinking, and to influence consumers’ preferences. Increasing the price of alcoholic beverages is one of the most effective interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol. A key factor for the success of price-related policies in reducing harmful use of alcohol is an effective and efficient system for taxation matched by adequate tax collection and enforcement.

Demand for different beverages may be affected differently. Tax increases can have different impacts on sales, depending on how they affect the price to the consumer. The existence of a substantial illicit market for alcohol complicates policy considerations on taxation in many countries. In such circumstances tax changes must be accompanied by efforts to bring the illicit and informal markets under effective government control. Increased taxation can also meet resistance from consumer groups and economic operators, and taxation policy will benefit from the support of information and awareness-building measures to counter such resistance.

Good market knowledge and insight into the composition and production of informal or illicit alcohol are also important, coupled with an appropriate legislative framework and active enforcement. These interventions should complement, not replace, other interventions to reduce harmful use of alcohol.

Global strategy

Civil society has an important role in warning about the impact of harmful use of alcohol on individuals, families and communities and in bringing additional commitment and resources to support the implementation of the global strategy.

The media play an increasingly important role, not only as a conveyer of news and information but also as a channel for communications, and will be encouraged to support the intentions and activities of the global strategy.

To be effective, education about alcohol needs to go beyond providing information about the risks of harmful use of alcohol to promoting the availability of effective interventions and mobilizing public opinion and support for effective alcohol policies.

An important component of community action programmes, which has been shown to change young people’s drinking behaviour and on alcohol-related harm such as traffic crashes and violence, is media advocacy. Another approach to community action in low-income countries has been to encourage communities to mobilize public opinion to address local determinants of increased levels of harmful use of alcohol.

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