ASITHA G PUNCHIHEWA

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Alcohol, should it be legal at all?

Posted by Asitha G Punchihewa on March 15, 2018 at 6:45 AM

Alcohol, should it be legal at all?

The recent drama on alcohol has paved the way for rights "activists" to explore the possibility of allowing females to procure alcohol and to sell alcohol, on the basis of fundamental rights. A law nobody was aware of and a law that was never implemented has now emerged a serious issue. An issue that could potentially lead to promoting alcohol in general, and promoting alcohol consumption among females in particular.

 

This drama, in my view is not an isolated case of an indiscipline politician, but rather a calculated effort stemming from investments of alcohol producing corporations leading to pro- alcohol market expansion national policy.

 

In some of the least developed countries, such informal methods have been adopted successfully. Sri Lanka is apparently the first country in South Asia to see such informal influences.

 

I, as an optimist gave further thought to the current episode where Samanali Fonseka had gone in search of the fundamental right of women to procure and sell alcohol in Sri Lanka.

 

The constitution states "(7) The exercise and operation of all the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Articles 12, 13(1), 13(2) and 14 shall be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interests of national security, public order and the protection of public health or morality, or for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others, or of meeting the just requirements of the general welfare of a democratic society. For the purposes of this paragraph “law” includes regulations made under the law for the time being relating to public security."

 

According to this, females have enjoyed the legal protection to safeguard their health from impacts of alcohol whereas the males have not.

 

At least in Penal code XIV "offenses affecting public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals" the following sections are directly or indirectly linked to consumption of alcohol.

 

261. Public nuisance.

 

262. Negligent act likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life.

 

266. Sale of noxious food or drink.

 

272. Rash driving or riding on a public way.

 

277. Negligent conduct with respect to any poisonous substance.

 

Despite many academic research disclosing the multiple negative impacts and no known health benefits, government has not only continued to aid, abet and encourage the breaching of at least the sections 261, 262, 266, 272 and 277 of the penal code but has also profited out of beaching such sections of the penal code.

 

If sections 262 and 277 are logically analyzed, alcohol cannot be and should not be produced or sold with the exception of alcohol that is produced and used for non intoxicant, non addictive purpose.

 

262. Negligent act likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to life.

 

In Sri Lanka alone, 65 people are believed to die each day of causes related to alcohol. It is a scientifically proven fact that alcohol consumption mobilizes non communicable diseases including but not limited to heart disease, stroke, hypertension. Drunk driving remains the second largest road traffic killer. Social consequences ranging from loss of productivity to rape and incest have direct associations with alcohol consumption.

 

277. Negligent conduct with respect to any poisonous substance.

Though alcohol is not a poison, it is a substance causing addiction and mobilizing a slow, painful death.

 

In biology, "poisons are substances that cause disturbances in organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when an organism absorbs a sufficient quantity."Therefore, alcohol is noting but a poison. However, the expected counter-argument of the alcohol industry would be "encouraging responsible drinking", which is a campaign done trough International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), a wong specifically formed by the Global Alcohol Production Group (GAPG). National alcohol policy formulation round tables are infested by representatives of the alcohol industry in many African countries. It is quite similar to the agriculture round-tables in Sri Lanka that have representatives of the trans national agro-chimical corporations.

 

Health by definition is "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Therefore, it is clear that alcohol is harmful for health, both short term and long term.

 

Government collecting substantial revenue through enabling sustaining the alcohol industry is immaterial as long as this industry has blood of its citizens in it. It is also well known that the alcohol related public burden on health, legal, law enforcement, social sectors etc by far outnumber the earnings.

 

The government's foremost obligation is to protect its citizens, the right to life, right to health. Even though the government has given at least to a certain degree a legal safeguard for women to protect themselves from the health hazard, alcohol, the government's discriminatory law has failed to offer any legal safeguard for men.

 

Therefore, we urge the government to consider adopting the legal safeguards applicable to women on alcohol to men because discriminatory laws should not violate the rights of men.

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