ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka authorities are turning their guns onto quarter arrack bottles of arrack claiming they are polluting the environment after a 1000 person survey showed a majority wanted the bottles banned.
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera had said he was considering banning quarter bottles over pollution, a media report said.
The latest ban came after Sri Lanka National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) said it is planning to request the government to ban 180 milliliter or ‘quarter’ bottles of arrack.
NATA Chairman Samadhi Rajapaksa told press a briefing at the Health Promotion Bureau last week that the ban was being planned after a survey of 1000 persons wanted the bottles banned.
The survey had also asked whether alcohol and tobacco should be banned at all public places and 95 percent had said yes.
Smoking is already banned in public places over secondary inhalation; however no evidence was presented over secondary inhalation of alcohol.
95 percent had also said sales of alcohol and tobacco should be banned within half a kilometer of a school.
“Simultaneously we asked whether the quarter arrack bottle should be banned or halted,” Rajapaksa said. ”
“72.4 percent said yes the quarter bottle should be banned.”
In answer to the question whether a fundamental human right of a non-smoking person had been violated by smoking in front of them, 66.5 percent had answered in the affirmative.
To a question whether tobacco should be considered a legal product 45.7 percent had said yes.
“More than 50 percent people think that this should not be a legal product,” Rajapaksa said.
NATA had also asked whether the education system was doing enough to educate students about the problems of tobacco and intoxicating substances.
He said over 70 percent had said the education system was no giving enough knowledge about the problems of alcohol and tobacco.
Another 65 percent had said single stick tobacco sales (after breaking pack) should be banned.
Opening bottles and selling a half or quarter bottle is already banned in off-license shops in Sri Lanka.
The budget in November also raised alcohol taxes, further stimulating non-tax paid moonshine.
Sri Lanka is already seeing some people shifting to beedi, over high cost of cigarette.
However there is a long term decline in tobacco smoking due to activities of charities like ADIC which had deglamorised its use, restrictions on promotion as well as price hikes.
People buy quarter bottles or moonshine (kasippu) because legal full bottles are no longer available.
Rajapaksa said the survey will be used to change the law of NATA and influence legislators in future policy.
“This will help influence peoples representative and bring the public opinion directly to the legislators,” Rajapaksa said.
He said small bottles were being thrown away and farmers were complaining about quarter bottles being thrown into fields.
He said officials of the environmental ministry were also supportive of a ban.
“This is like selling single cigarettes. We have to somehow stop this,” Rajapaksa said.
The belief by control oriented people in particular that majority decisions are always right is generally known as the “democratic fallacy”.
Smokers and alcohol consumers have always been considered fair game to target excessively taxes for many years through what a called ‘sin’ taxes.
Sri Lanka’s most widely known majority decisions which had created subsequent upheavals include the enactment of the Sinhala only law.
Sri Lanka has history of using majoritarianism to ban or restrict people’s behaviours through the coercive power of the state.
Sri Lanka is now in crisis after doctors moved politicians to ban fertilizer claiming that agro-chemicals caused kidney diseases and other non-communicable diseases. (Colombo/Nov22/2021)